ProPublica Investigates Match Group’s Approach to Sex Offenders

An investigation into Match Group-owned properties has found that 10% of dating app sexual assault cases involve users who have previously been accused or convicted of similar crimes.

The results of the research, conducted by ProPublica, BuzzFeed News and Columbia Journalism Investigations, suggest apps aren’t properly screening people as they sign up to services.

Match Group does action some background checks on users who want premium subscriptions. However, the free accounts don’t allow the company to collect enough information to carry out substantial reviews.

A spokesperson for the online dating company admitted there are limitations to the system, and told BuzzFeed News: “There are definitely registered sex offenders on our free products.”

Subsidiary Plenty of Fish explains it doesn’t do criminal background checks, but instead requires new members to promise they haven’t committed “a felony or indictable offense”. Other users are responsible for policing the community by reporting bad actors.

An official statement from Match Group challenged the investigation and called it “inaccurate”.

“We do not tolerate sex offenders on our site and the implication that we know about such offenders on our site and don’t fight to keep them off is as outrageous as it is false. 

“As technology evolves, we will continue to aggressively deploy new tools to eradicate bad actors, including users of our free products like Tinder, Plenty of Fish and OkCupid where we are not able to obtain sufficient and reliable information to make meaningful background checks possible.”

The report referenced a number of individual cases from the past few years, such as Michael Miller, who had a 17-year history of sex crimes when he signed up to Plenty of Fish in 2017. He was accused of rape by a woman he met on the platform less than a year later.

Match Group found itself in hot water this September when it was sued for fraudulent business practices by the FTC. The US government agency accused it of turning a blind eye to scam accounts if their engagement helped to convert free members into paying subscribers.

Read more here.