Today, Columbia Journalism Investigations published, with ProPublica and Buzzfeed, a 16-month survey of Dallas Match Group. The takeaway: Lax filtering processes in apps like Tinder, PlentyofFish, and OKCupid make users vulnerable to repeat sexual predators, and Match could be doing more to make things safer.
The problem does not lie with the flagship Match.com site, where users are fed by sex offender registries. But this practice does not extend to other brands under its umbrella. CJI’s account revolves around Mark Papamechail, who pleaded guilty three times to rape and yet continued to appear on the company’s services. We also get an overview of Match’s seemingly weak attempts to take action or even provide information, such as chat logs, when users accuse other users of assault.
The company says it “definitely” has sex offenders on its free products. A Match Group lobbyist told CJI that filtering online dating users is “incredibly difficult” because all a sex offender has to do is provide a false name. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that violators would or that the onus should be 100% shifted to users. And surely there is a genius ready to create facial recognition software for us that checks the new profiles against the images in the registry. Just to close this loophole of false names a little more.
Several former security officials told CJI that such checks would be a possible way to help prevent sexual assault in online dating – if the company invests the resources. For example, they and other experts say that Match Group, which expects to make around $ 800 million in profit this year according to a metric, could purchase an application program interface, or API, from a third-party provider to enable it to verify its users against the nearly 900,000 registered sex offenders in the United States
And then there’s the CJI investigation results, which are buried quite a long way into history, I guess because of all the qualifiers they rightfully include. Either way, it’s not a great look:
Because no one collects official statistics on online dating sexual assault in the United States, CJI surveyed over 1,200 women who said they had used a dating platform in the past 15 years. This is an unscientific questionnaire on an underreported crime, and the results represent only the specific group of CJI. They are not generalizable and cannot be extrapolated to all online dating subscribers. (Read the survey methodology at the end of this story.) Among this small group, more than a third of the women said they had been sexually assaulted by someone they met through a dating app. Of these women, more than half said they had been raped.
For my money, CJI treats a difficult subject with care and balance, holding Match Group to account without overestimating its conclusions. These are questions our local business will want to address. Read everything and draw your own conclusions here.