Some use them for fun, while others may be searching for their true love. But there is one thing that is certain about dating apps; they need more regulation.
A recent investigation discovered that most free dating apps don’t conduct background checks on sex offenders. In fact, Match Group, the largest dating app corporation in the United States, has admitted that they do not screen free dating apps for users with sexual-related charges. The company owns some of the most popular dating apps to date such as Tinder, Hinge, Plenty of Fish, and OkCupid.
A simple background check could have saved the lives of multiple men and women who ended up raped or murdered. A study conducted by Columbia Journalism Investigations has found that this lack of uniform policy to conduct background checks had left users vulnerable to an array of sexual assaults.
However, what remains shocking is that Match Group had issued statements pertaining to the protection of its users by ensuring extensive screenings of potential predators, but it has done the opposite, according to CBS News. For years, it had made false promises to users in which they agreed to examine sex-offender registries following the rapes of various women. Both women had matched with men whom they later realized had been convicted of sexual-related crimes on multiple occasions.
One woman matched with a man named Mark Papamechail on the Plenty of Fish dating app back in 2016. His profile indicated that he was divorced, just like her, and looking for someone to marry. The two chatted for months and even went on several dates together until he raped her. She became the second woman to file a police report against Papamechail following a sex-related crime.
According to the same analysis, in 10 per cent of the incidents, dating platforms had matched their users with a convicted criminal at least once before. These statistics should raise an immediate red flag considering the number of people using dating apps daily. The Community Justice Initiatives (CJI) released a study suggesting that this problem will continue, given the growing popularity of online dating apps throughout the years. In 2008, the percentage of adults who used dating apps went from three per cent in 2008, two 12 per cent in 2015. Furthermore, the BBC announced in an article released this year that the number of recorded sexual assaults had almost doubled in the last four years. In England, recorded offenses intensified from 156 in 2015, to 286 in 2018.
Despite the dangers surrounding these dating apps, there are precautions that can be taken for women to feel safer before going on a date with someone they met online. First and foremost, you should always let a friend or family member know about the date ahead of time. You can also let that person track your location using through the Find My Friends app or via Facebook Messenger. I also find that it’s usually best to meet your date in a public place in the event that if something bad happens, there’s always a chance that someone nearby will see something. Never forget, the internet is your friend! So in that case, don’t be afraid to do some digging on the person you’re meeting beforehand. Last tip, if your date takes place in a bar, always make sure to keep an eye on your drink if you feel uneasy because at the end of the day, it’s better to be safe than sorry!
Graphic by Victoria Blair