Sex dating service
But over this same period, as Match evolved into the publicly traded Match Group and bought its competitors, the company hasn’t extended this practice across its platforms — including Plenty of Fish, its second most popular dating app.
The lack of a uniform policy allows convicted and accused perpetrators to access Match Group apps and leaves users vulnerable to sexual assault, a 16-month investigation by Columbia Journalism Investigations found.
Yet the analysis suggests that Match’s screening policy has helped to prevent the problem: Almost all of these cases implicated Match Group’s free apps; the only service that scours sex offender registries, Match, had none.
In 2017, Tinder matched Massachusetts registered sex offender Michael Durgin with a woman, and she later told police he had raped her on their first date; Durgin’s two rape charges were dropped after the woman “indicated that she does not wish for the Commonwealth to proceed to trial,” records show.
Match Group, which owns most major online dating services, screens for sexual predators on Match — but not on Tinder, Ok Cupid, or Plenty of Fish.
A spokesperson said, “There are definitely registered sex offenders on our free products.” Susan Deveau saw Mark Papamechail’s online dating profile on Plenty of Fish in late 2016.
His dating app profile said he wanted “to find someone to marry.”Deveau had used dating websites for years, but she told her adult daughter the men she met were “dorky.” She joked about how she could get “catfished” if a date looked nothing like his picture. The two were — in the popular dating platform’s jargon — “matched.”A background check would have revealed that Papamechail was a three-time convicted rapist.
Most incidents occurred in the past five years and during the app users’ first in-person meeting, in parking lots, apartments, and dorm rooms.It puts responsibility for policing its users on users themselves.Customers who sign its service agreement promise they haven’t committed “a felony or indictable offense (or crime of similar severity), a sex crime, or any crime involving violence,” and aren’t “required to register as a sex offender with any state, federal or local sex offender registry.” Plenty of Fish doesn’t attempt to verify whether its users tell the truth, according to the company. They chatted online and eventually arranged a date. But months after their Plenty of Fish match, Deveau became the second woman to report to police that Papamechail raped her after they had met through a dating app.Match first agreed to screen for registered sex offenders in 2011 after Carole Markin made it her mission to improve its safety practices.The site had connected her with a six-time convicted rapist who, she told police, had raped her on their second date.Asked about the CJI data, Match Group’s spokesperson said the 157 cases “need to be put in perspective with the tens of millions of people that have used our dating products.”The company declined multiple requests to interview executives and other key employees familiar with its protocols for addressing online dating sexual assault.The spokesperson described the steps the company takes to ensure customer safety on its platforms — from blocking users accused of sexual assault to checking across its apps for accused users’ accounts and flagging them on a companywide distribution list.Markin sued the company to push for regular registry checks.The Harvard-educated entertainment executive held a high-profile press conference to unveil her lawsuit.In a 2012 agreement on best industry practices between the attorney general’s office and the dating site, among others, the company again agreed to “identify sexual predators” and examine sex offender registries.It pledged to go further and respond to users’ rape complaints with an additional safety tool: “a rapid abuse reporting system.”Today, Match Group checks the information of its paid subscribers on Match against state sex offender lists.