Feb 20, 2020 - Technology

Exclusive: Democrats call on dating sites to screen for sex offenders

Photo illustration of a Tinder logo displayed on a phone screen.

Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Democratic members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee are urging dating sites to more thoroughly check users against sex offender registries, raising the possibility of legislation that would force them to do so.

Why it matters: Match Group, which includes Tinder, Hinge and OKCupid, is under fire from lawmakers after a report revealed the company doesn't screen for sex offenders on its free platforms.

Driving the news: The letter Thursday, led by Rep. Annie Kuster (D-NH), said the failure to cross check all user responses who certify they are not sex offenders with registries is "deeply concerning."

  • Match checks paid subscribers against state sex offender lists, but doesn't do so for its free services, according to the report from ProPublica, Buzzfeed and Columbia Journalism Investigations.
  • The lawmakers note that the checks will not be accurate in all circumstances, but may still discourage some sex offenders from using the sites.
  • "We urge you to begin conducting these checks immediately," the lawmakers, including E&C consumer protection subcommittee chairwoman Jan Schakowsky, wrote. "Your company’s failure to take this step is putting users at risk."

The big picture: The Democrats' letter comes after a House Oversight subcommittee launched an investigation in January into underage use of dating applications and the lack of screening of potential sex offenders.

  • The E&C Democrats raise the specter of legislation in their letter to Match, noting that "the decision your company takes to proactively conduct checks" is important for "informing our legislative efforts."
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