Feb 20, 2020 - Technology

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

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."

Go deeper

Match Group first tech company to back anti-online child abuse bill

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Online dating company Match Group will tomorrow publicly support the EARN IT Act, a bipartisan Senate bill to combat online child sexual exploitation, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Match, the parent company of major dating platforms such as Tinder, is breaking with the internet industry's leading trade group, which worries the bill could open a wedge for law enforcement to crack into encrypted systems, threatening user privacy.

Coronavirus will delay lawmakers' tech antitrust investigation

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.). Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images.

The spread of the coronavirus will delay a House antitrust investigation into Big Tech and online markets, the Democrat leading the probe said Thursday.

Driving the news: Rep. David Cicilline, who chairs the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, said the public health crisis will push back a bipartisan report detailing the investigation's findings, originally set for release at the end of this month.

Washington's new tech target: fake products

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The growing online trade in copycat goods is a new target in Washington's war on Big Tech, as policymakers pressure companies like Amazon to take more responsibility for what happens across their platforms.

The big picture: The spotlight on counterfeit goods is part of a broader push by lawmakers to use policy levers to hold tech companies accountable for real-world harms that result from users' online actions.