Sittin’ in the dock of e-bay

Stretching dating site truths could earn you a stretch

Social media, dating sites, online auctions – all of these internet-based platforms require you to have a ‘user-name’. All also have ‘terms of service’, which you must agree to abide before you can complete your membership.

But does anyone signing up to join online dating communities, in particular, actually read these rules and regulations? Given the bill that The White House is attempting to force through, now may be a good time to print off a copy of your matchmaking guidelines as, by not adhering to them, you could very soon be breaking the law, with the penalty quite possibly culminating in a custodial sentence.

But Obama’s party are pushing to make these lengthy transcripts, which are largely ignored by the majority of singles looking for love online, legally binding. So how is this especially bad for dating websites?

If you care to open your dating site’s terms and conditions, scroll through them as you did when you signed up, but this time stop at the key phrase applicable to this bill, which will read something like: “by accepting the terms of service of [x dating site], you agree not to provide inaccurate, misleading or false information.”

How this is going to be policed, and how any subsequent prosecutions are going to prioritised, we are yet to see. Certainly, the catalyst for this move to increase the scope of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act was the unsuccessful prosecution of evil mom Lori Drew. Her constant diatribe, under an assumed name, against a 13-yr old who went on to kill herself as a result was unable to be brought to trial under a criminal act and also failed to secure a conviction for violating MySpace’s terms of service under restricting impersonation, although they clearly did.

Many people who communicate, do business or provide relevant information for others across these mediums share the same name. There must be thousands of people across the globe who, by not being able to submit their real name as their dating site identity (as it will not be unique) will be breaking this law the moment they sign up under a pseudonym. Whether the name they choose instead of their own duplicates another’s is intentional or not, they may be risking prosecution from the outset.

How disastrous would it be if all of the John Smith’s were instructed to use their real name as their user id on their matchmaking site, with only their password the differentiate, for someone to subsequently arrange a date with the wrong John Smith!?

This passes the burden of responsibility onto the dating site involved and what they authorise as permissible on their platform. If they relax their terms to a degree which allows some deviation, then the gates are re-opened for impersonators, once more.

This surely calls for apps like the tru.ly app, which draws upon government records for verification, to be part and parcel of the sign up process for dating websites across the globe. Job done.