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Keeping Sex Offenders Off of Internet Dating Sites

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By Adam Ramirez on April 26, 2011 6:49 AM

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the internet.

Can people who seek to find the love of their life on Internet dating sites rest assured that their potential dates have been vetted and do not present any threat of physical danger? This is a good question that has been sparked by recent developments involving Match.com.

As reported here on FindLaw's Injured, Match.com will screen for sex offenders listed on the National Sex Offender Registry.

This comes in the wake of a recent California lawsuit filed against the dating site by a woman who alleges that she was raped by a convicted offender who she met on Match.com.

The lawyer representing the man accused by the woman has stated in the press that they had engaged in "a consensual sexual encounter."

The lawsuit seeks to be on behalf of not only the woman who says she was raped, but also for all of Match.com's for-pay female members from August 2010 to the present time. The attorney for the woman who alleges rape has stated in the press that he will seek an injunction prohibiting Match.com from adding further members until adequate screening procedures are put in place.

Match.com representatives have responded in the press that even with screening procedures in place, their members must exercise caution and prudence when dealing with others they do not know, because such procedures are not flawless and are not a guarantee of the future actions of people who are beyond control. Indeed, the Match.com terms of service provide that members are responsible for their interactions with others they meet on the site and that Match.com is not liable for the consequences of meetings that occur from introductions on the site.

Here, it seems that both sides of the debate have valid points. On the one hand, to the extent a dating site reasonably can screen members and preclude potentially dangerous people from joining the membership, that is important and valuable. On the other hand, whether or not such screening takes place, one always should be extremely careful about meeting a stranger. Such meetings, if they take place at all, should happen in safe, public places. Moreover, before getting together with a stranger, a member might want to conduct his or her own investigation into the background of the stranger.

Eric Sinrod is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP (http://www.duanemorris.com) where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. His Web site is http://www.sinrodlaw.com and he can be reached at ejsinrod@duanemorris.com. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please send an email to him with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.

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