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A bad idea that just won't go away

I testified again this week in Florida, trying to show state legislators what’s wrong with a bill that would have the state endorse inferior and ineffective background screenings for online dating customers. But, as the Palm Beach Post reports,  the Senate Criminal Justice Committee approved the bill on a 5-3 vote anyway.

What a majority of committee members failed to grasp is that this bill would do absolutely nothing to make online dating safer.  This, even after testimony from a Florida “romance coach” who helps singles use online dating sites, who explained that this bill would actually make online dating sites more dangerous by giving users a false sense of security,

The reason is simple. Criminal background screenings are very easy to fool. Does anyone really think that a convicted criminal would ever use his real name to join a dating site? And without his real name, how do you suppose the site could possibly do an effective background check?

Real predators don’t go looking for their victims on dating sites anyway. They are far more likely to be found lurking around social networking sites, a danger this misguided proposal completely ignores.

If lawmakers are serious about safety, singling out online dating sites for special regulation, while ignoring magazines, newspapers, and matchmaking services that operate offline, makes no sense at all.

In fact, this proposal has already been unmasked around the country as nothing more than a clever marketing stunt by one particular online dating site. makes a lot of noise about the fact that it screens new members for felony convictions. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that does those checks using an unverified name and a notoriously incomplete database that doesn’t even include misdemeanor convictions for crimes like sexual violence.

Supporters of this bill again ignored my warning that their endorsement of’s false sense of security would “freeze” Florida into an obsolete and ineffective method of screening.   Giving a government blessing to’s inferior system makes it much tougher to convince singles to use sites that authenticate identities and conduct serious background checks.

So far, legislatures around the country haven’t fallen for’s tricks. But Florida is coming dangerously close.  In the remaining weeks of this year’s session, let’s hope Florida’s lawmakers avoid adding their valuable endorsement to a very bad idea.