Match.com will now screen for sex offenders after being served with a class-action suit by a Los Angeles woman claiming she was sexually assaulted by sex offender she met on the site.
The woman identified only as "Jane Doe" met a man at Match.com, an online dating site, and on the second date was allegedly sexually assaulted. She also said she later found out that the man was on a sex-offender database. Her class-action suit required that the site not accept any new members until it cross-referenced existing members with sex offender databases.
"They are a very powerful and successful online dating service, and they have the means to do this," lawyer Mark L.Webb told the Los Angeles Times. A criminal case against Jane Doe's alleged rapist is pending.
(Although not specifically dating sites, social networks MySpace and Facebook also have their share of alleged sexual assaults. However, the two sites have been more proactive -- periodically removing sex offenders after teh urging of a few state officials.)
Apparently, Match.com tired of the negative publicity, or it realized they would be in a lot more trouble unless they acquiesced to her demands. It released a statement about it, including the "historic unreliability" of national sex offender registries as the reason the site didn't include sex-offender information before. (I don't think I've ever heard of any sex-offender database that was created by random people filled with flawed data and unreliable information. They're typically created by state and federal law enforcement agencies.) Match.com estimates the new screening process will be launched in 60 to 90 days.
Previously, Match.com's attitude was "buyer beware" and that each user was responsible for his or her own safety. That's a pretty good deal for an online dating site that makes you pay for a service and holds no accountability, right? Perhaps now the site will actually have its clients' safety rather than their money in mind.