To Screen Or Not To Screen

Online dating sure has gotten a bad rap lately. First, we had the Craigslist Killer taking all the fun out of the personals on that site. Not only did random blind dates with shifty-eyed strangers fill me with slightly more trepidation than before, the string of attacks also helped cause the “always good for a laugh” erotic services ads to be taken down.

This week, it was reported that an LA woman is suing one of the largest online dating sites out there,, after being allegedly sexually assaulted by a man she’d met on their site. According to the LA Times, it turns out he had a several previous convictions for sexual battery. Now she’s seeking  a court injunction to prevent future members from signing up unless the site implements a screening process involving cross-checking against sex offender registries. claims its up to the user to screen their own dates in order to protect themselves from harm, and even offer a variety of safety tips on the site. They’re pretty much basic common sense ranging from if you have a mobile phone, take it with you to stay in a public place. None of them would have really helped our Jane Doe anyway, as she was allegedly followed home by the attacker after their second date and assaulted in her home.

So, is it up to the dating sites to screen their users for sexually-based crimes? Companies like have found their niche in the market with online daters not satisfied with the level of screening performed by their sites. You see, for just a nominal fee ranging from $14.95 to up to $89, you can check on your prospective partner’s criminal history, see if they’re on the FBI terrorist watch list and oh so much more. Because, as they point out, “You just met someone. A background check makes good sense” or the old “wherever you are in your relationship, do a background check”.

Here’s a reality check- if you’re thinking about entering or in a relationship with someone that you think you should be getting a background check on, you probably don’t want to be in a relationship with that person. Now, may I have your $14.95 please?

At the end of the day, it’s even possible for online dating site to screen their clients perfectly? Of course not. Sexual assault is one of the most widely underreported crimes, so even if you cross checked with every database known to the city, province, country and world, you wouldn’t find all the predators out there. Just because a person has a clean record doesn’t mean they have a clean conscience… and that they are who they say they are.

After all, we’re talking about the Internet here, where it’s almost criminally easy to pretend you’re someone you’re not. I do not look forward to a future where you need fingerprints, a DNA sample, and a notarized letter from a blood relative just to think about signing up for an online dating site. And I thought there were slim pickings now…


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