Women looking to meet a partner on a dating site would be well advised to read a new investigative piece with a disturbing takeaway: It's surprisingly easy for sex offenders—even those on criminal registries—to set up profiles and meet new victims. Anyone who relies on these sites to vet users in that regard is taking a risk, according to the story by ProPublica, Columbia Journalism Investigations, and BuzzFeed. The story focuses heavily on industry behemoth Match, which runs not only its namesake site but other popular ones such as Tinder, PlentyofFish, and OkCupid. The company checks the names of paid users on Match.com against sex offender registries, but the practice does not apply to other sites or to its free platforms. "There are definitely registered sex offenders on our free products," says a Match spokesperson.
The company, though, says it's all but impossible to have a screening protocol because it doesn't collect enough information from free users. Beyond that, a fake name is all it takes circumvent the process. The story found more than 150 incidents of sex assault related to dating apps, most in the last five years, most on first meetings, and all through either Tinder, OkCupid, PlentyofFish, or Match. These cases "need to be put in perspective with the tens of millions of people that have used our dating products," counters the Match spokesperson. Additionally, an informal survey conducted by the journalism organizations of 1,200 women found that an alarming one-third had been sexually assaulted by someone they met on a dating app. (Read the full story, which includes interviews with women who were assaulted by registered offenders.)