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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Match.com's Move to Screen Convicted Sex Offenders Is a Good Idea

Posted By on Tue, Apr 19, 2011 at 1:30 PM

Not always the right match
  • Not always the right match
I was all set to make fun of Match.com's decision to start screening out current and prospective members who have

been convicted of sex offenses. I opened up about 15 browser tabs, mainly pages

arguing against the idea. Before I was halfway through them, however, I had

changed my mind completely.

Opposition to the decision comes down to two related

arguments: that it will create a "false sense of security" and that it's a "slippery slope." In other words, that Match might be opening itself up to

liability -- or at least criticism -- when slimeballs sneak through its system and

do something nasty. Without such a policy, the argument goes, Match has

historically left it up to individual users to protect themselves

from the prelimbic, single-helixed mutoids of the world, and has acted as a

disinterested middleman.

 

Those are certainly legitimate arguments. But they're

negated by the simple fact that, by screening, Match.com logically will have

fewer miscreants among its members and hence, there will be fewer such

incidents. Few people will assume that, thanks to this policy, all

Match.com members are lovely people and there is no longer a need to be

careful.

And those few people were probably going to find themselves in trouble

anyway, since they are clearly naive.

 

The logic is ironclad. Pick any 10 people at random. The odds are that at least one of them is dangerous. Now crosscheck those 10 against a list of convicted sex offenders and eliminate those who come up

positive. It's possible that one of the remaining people will nevertheless be

dangerous, but the point is that it's less likely. That doesn't mean that people looking for dates online shouldn't be

as careful as ever, of course. And it's hard to imagine anyone saying,

"Oh, I don't need to worry -- Match screens out all the bad people."

One look through the site shows that there are still plenty of marginal -- even

creepy -- characters on there.

 

There is one argument that holds more water -- that Match

will unfairly ban users who are on the national sex offender registry for petty

crimes like urinating in public -- or who might even be innocent.

But, well, them's the breaks.

I think if you're on the registry, you have much

bigger problems than being banned by a dating site. And Match is a private

company and can do what it wants.

 

If Match and its lawyers have determined that it will be

cheap enough, and legally safe enough, for it to conduct such screening, that

can only be good for its membership.

 

Now, if they could just screen out the guys who post

pictures of themselves shirtless, flexing, and standing in front of their

speedboats, and the women with American flags knitted into their sweaters --  that

would be even better.

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Dan Mitchell

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