Online dating services
essentially brought in the masses, and
popularized paying for/using such a service.
But, with this model came some problems—the one
most commonly cited being “misrepresen-tation”.
Examples of this are… you look nothing like your
photo, or you did not tell the truth about your
age, occupation, education, or worse, MARITAL
Screening is another key issue, and background
checks are only one part of it. Online services must
take peoples’ word for what they say about
themselves. Off-line dating services, because they
meet people face to face, reduce this problem
substantially. Background checks provide further
Wall Street Journal article (“Bored of the
Rings”) examined the problem of misrepresentation in
online services in detail. The authors found that
online dating services are attracting large numbers
of visitors from an unexpected group—MARRIED people!
Several years ago, more than 30% of visitors to
the top 3 stand-alone personals sites were found to
be married, according to statistics compiled by
Jupiter Media Metrix, a New York research firm. At
two of those sites (Dreammates.com and
Friendfinder.com) the figure was more than 40%.
study several years ago by a Canadian subsidiary of
Microsoft found that 18% of registered users at
online dating sites were married. This presents a
major dilemma for the dating websites. The two
leaders, Match.com and Yahoo Personals, take very
different approaches to tackle this issue. Match.com
brands itself as a meeting place for people who are
“single and seeking a one-to-one relationship. They
shun married users in an attempt to provide a
single-only community. Management says that nearly
20% of the profiles that are submitted are rejected,
and of those rejections about 20% is because the
user is found to be married. Yahoo also screens each
profile prior to posting. However, it does not
reject married profiles. Instead, it prods users to
fully disclose their marital status so that users
will know exactly who they’re meeting. Management at
Yahoo feels that there may be people that are in
relationships and are looking to change.
Current Status & Legislation
Several states including:
Illinois, Florida, Texas, and Virginia all have
or have had some pending legislation regarding
background checks. The online business community
has been fighting these changes but it appears
as though some of these laws will be passed. In
Illinois for instance, legislation had passed
their House of Representatives by nearly 2 to 1
in favor of making web sites post a message that
basically states that the website does not
conduct background checks on anyone using the
web site. The bill was sent to the Senate in
February of 2006.
True.com is one website that
already offers background checks on their clients.
Some of the larger websites will no doubt follow
suit over time as a means of differentiating
themselves in the marketplace. However, the online
dating industry has concerns about conducting
criminal background checks because they feel these
checks may create a false sense of safety by their
users, as some criminals are bound to slip through
the cracks. Legislation is still pending in most
IMBRA (International Marriage
Broker Regulation Act of 2005)
The International Marriage
Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA) was enacted by
Congress and signed into law. It will go into effect
on April 1, 2006.
The law requires mandatory
criminal and marital background checks be performed
on each American man, and that each foreign woman
must receive and approve of this information before
her email address can be released.
This legislation goes far
beyond the legislation proposed by True.com that
requires that online dating sites either do
background checks or publish on their home pages, in
large letters, that they do not perform these
checks. IMBRA makes these checks mandatory.
If you own a dating website
that does not specialize in foreign women meeting
American men, you can relax, for now. IMBRA doesn't
affect you immediately. But this is just the first
step in a very strong push nationally to mandate
that all dating companies, including dating
websites, require these expensive background checks.
It is interesting to note that
the giant online dating websites in the U.S. did not
fight this legislation, since they were able to
place an exception for them into the bill.
Match. com says background
checks would add $10 to $15 to the cost of its three
In 2001, 1.6 million people
subscribed to an online dating site, says Andrew
Peach, research director for Jupiter Research, an
Internet market research company in New York City.
By 2004, there were 4.7 Million subscribers.
Friendfinder.com offers members
the ability to have their online profiles certified
as accurate, at no cost to the member, and yet very
few members avail themselves of this free service.