LOS ANGELES – Match Group, the company that owns many of the popular free dating apps such as Tinder and PlentyofFish, acknowledged that there are registered sex offenders on the platforms following a lengthy investigation by ProPublica.
ProPublica, a nonprofit newsroom, along with Columbia Journalism Investigations and BuzzFeed, looked into sexual assaults on dating apps as well as how they’re handled by Match Group and its selection of free applications. The investigation lasted 16 months.
During the course of the investigation, a spokesperson for Match Group stated that “There are definitely registered sex offenders on our free products.”
Match Group, the Dallas-based company that generates about $1.7 billion in revenue, owns Match.com, Tinder, PlentyofFish, OkCupid, Hinge and dozens of other online dating applications and websites. Its most popular apps are Tinder with 5.2 million subscribers and PlentyofFish, according to ProPublica.
In 2011, Match agreed to screen for sex offenders after a woman, Carole Markin, pushed to improve safety measures on its platforms.
ProPublica reported that Match connected her with a six-time convicted rapist who she told police raped her on their second date. She sued Match Group in an effort to get the company to regularly check sex offender registries.
Within months, the group said it started a screening process. When the lawsuit was settled, lawyers said the website was checking paid subscribers against state and national sex offender registries.
But currently, Match Group reportedly only checks the information for its subscribers against state sex offenders lists while all of its free platforms are left unchecked.
A Match Group spokesperson said that the company cannot “implement a uniform screening protocol because it doesn’t collect enough information” from its free users as well as some paid subscribers, ProPublica reported.
Columbia Journalism Investigations looked over 10 years of data that included more than 150 incidents of sexual assault connected to dating apps. The information came from news reports, civil lawsuits and criminal records.
“Most incidents occurred in the past five years and during the app users’ first in-person meeting, in parking lots, apartments and dorm rooms,” ProPublica reported. “Most victims, almost all women, met their male attackers through Tinder, OkCupid, PlentyofFish or Match.”
Of those 150 incidents, 10 percent of them involved the dating platforms matching users with “someone who had been accused or convicted of sexual assault at least once.” Very few cases involved a registered sex offender, according to ProPublica.
“The analysis suggests that Match’s screening policy has helped to prevent the problem: Almost all of these cases implicated Match Group’s free apps; the only service that scours sex offender registries, Match, had none,” the article stated.
A spokesperson for Match Group also told ProPublica how it makes sure customers are safe from predators. Steps include blocking users accused of sexual assault, checking all of its platforms for accused users’ accounts and placing them on a company-wide distribution list.
But ProPublica’s investigation highlights how those protocols don’t often work, citing instances where women reported men who sexually assaulted them, then found them on the platform again not long after they complained.
Former employees from various apps, such as OkCupid, told ProPublica that it’s easy for banned users to come back on the platform. Those who were banned can simply use different information and create a new account. Match Group declined to comment to ProPublica about the issue.
Over the years, several states have tried to combat the issue of sexual predators using online dating applications, but no federal regulation has been proposed or implemented.