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Match Group, which owns most major online dating services, screens for sexual predators on Match — but not on Tinder, Ok Cupid, or Plenty of Fish.
A spokesperson said, “There are definitely registered sex offenders on our free products.” Susan Deveau saw Mark Papamechail’s online dating profile on Plenty of Fish in late 2016.
Within months, Match’s lawyers told the judge that “a screening process has been initiated,” records show.
After the settlement, the company’s attorneys declared the site was “checking subscribers against state and national sex offender registries.” The next year, Match made similar assurances to then–California Attorney General Kamala Harris.
Scrolling through his pictures, she saw a 54-year-old man, balding and broad, dressed in a T-shirt.
Papamechail lived near her home in a suburb of Boston and, like Deveau, was divorced.
His dating app profile said he wanted “to find someone to marry.”Deveau had used dating websites for years, but she told her adult daughter the men she met were “dorky.” She joked about how she could get “catfished” if a date looked nothing like his picture. The two were — in the popular dating platform’s jargon — “matched.”A background check would have revealed that Papamechail was a three-time convicted rapist.
Its top dating app, Tinder, has 5.2 million subscribers, surpassing such popular rivals as Bumble.
Asked about the CJI data, Match Group’s spokesperson said the 157 cases “need to be put in perspective with the tens of millions of people that have used our dating products.”The company declined multiple requests to interview executives and other key employees familiar with its protocols for addressing online dating sexual assault.
The spokesperson described the steps the company takes to ensure customer safety on its platforms — from blocking users accused of sexual assault to checking across its apps for accused users’ accounts and flagging them on a companywide distribution list.
Yet 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.
In 2017, Tinder matched Massachusetts registered sex offender Michael Durgin with a woman, and she later told police he had raped her on their first date; Durgin’s two rape charges were dropped after the woman “indicated that she does not wish for the Commonwealth to proceed to trial,” records show.