COMMENTARY | According to Time, major dating websites are now beginning to screen new members against sex offender registries. This is likely in response to a 2011 lawsuit filed by a Match.com member who claimed she was raped by a man with whom she went on a date, with the alleged attacker turning out to have six sex offense convictions. With up to 20 percent of all Americans having dated someone they met on an online dating site, the background checks now performed by popular sites like Match.com and eHarmony stand to make online dating safer for millions.
With so many Americans using Internet dating to help find partners, dating sites have increased responsibility to ensure that their members are legitimate and trustworthy. This is especially true of paid dating sites, where singles pay substantial membership fees. Shouldn't paying to be matched with other singles of similar interests include a reasonable expectation that that other single is not a sex offender?
Online dating sites should seek to ensure the safety of their members as the practice of Internet dating becomes more and more common and expected of today's younger singles. Given the fact that so many twentysomethings leave home and travel to other cities and states to attend college and find jobs, it is unreasonable for online dating to maintain any vestiges of its previous reputation as an activity of the desperate, lonesome, socially inept, and those seeking random sexual encounters. I know many normal twentysomethings, including myself, who met their significant others online.
Dating sites which become known as "hunting grounds" for sex offenders tarnish the reputation of all online dating and dissuade young singles, many of whom are recent arrivals to new cities and know few eligible people they can date, from trying to meet someone online.
By running simple checks to make sure that new members are not registered sex offenders, dating sites are making life safer for a large portion of the population, especially the younger generation, and allowing the younger, more mobile generation greater access to more compatible dating partners. With millions of young people unable to date the way their parents and grandparents did, "cleaning up" Internet dating by weeding out potential predators is a necessity, not a nicety.