FIND LAW -- Sep 28 -- The federal government hasn't gotten into the business of regulating online dating but it does regulate international marriage brokers. There's 200 operating in the U.S. and each year several thousand American men meet their spouses through them. Some of the wives become victims of domestic violence. So congress passed a law, effective March 2006, requiring international marriage brokers to obtain criminal and background information from all of their members and disclose the information on their site. This law is a good idea. But it is one thing to move across the globe and get married, and entirely another to simply meet online and then to have a date. Congress has been right to stay out of the area of online dating so far, and the states may want to follow suit. New York is the only state that has a law specifically regulating online dating sites. But rather than attempting to ensure user safety, New York law targets fraud, regulating the quality and number of referrals the sites provide for a fee.
California, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia and Texas introduced online dating legislation recently. Some states want to mandate warnings on internet dating sites stating that no background checks have been conducted on users. Warnings are a good idea - preventing any false sense of security on the part of users. Sites should adopt them as liability protection. Other states may require checks be conducted. Criminal records vary from state to state, and from record to record, in their thoroughness, accuracy, and completeness. This poses a legal risk for the website. A user falsely branded a felon could sue for libel. (Communications Decency Act protections against libel liability don't apply to the author of a posting, only to its host; if the site authored "felon" notices, it could still be liable.) Conversely, a user who relied on an "all clear" result from the site, but then was assaulted or raped, could sue the site for a variety of torts including misrepresentation.
eBay users could be con artists or swindlers - yet eBay does not require a criminal background check. Instead, it relies largely on user feedback to police its marketplace. Some dating sites have used reputation in creative ways - either negatively, as with Dontdatehimgirl.com, or positively, as with sites where users get recommendations from exes with whom they are still friends. FULL ARTICLE @ FIND LAW
Mark Brooks: At the end of the day, cheap background checks fall short and can lead to a false sense of security. Many felony convictions are talked down to misdemeanours which are far harder to identify. But these background checks are still better than nothing. Dating services still offer a vast improvement over blindly meeting someone at a bar. Referrals from friends are still the best and safest way to meet someone...but internet dating sites offer the best selection of people where you can get all the 'difficult questions' out of the way right up front. Wants kids, doesn't smoke, social drinker etc. Singles should engage their friends, go to some of their parties, get on PlentyofFish (hey, it's free), get on a couple of paid services, and if they're so inclined ( i.e. very horny) join a casual dating site before they jump into the sack with someone and make it serious when it shouldn't be.