As the number of people looking for love on the Internet continues to balloon, so do concerns about the risks of being matched with a sexual predator, says the Chicago Tribune. Law enforcement officials say there’s no way to know what percentage of sexual assaults is linked to online dating. In providing access to millions of people, Internet services offer a widening universe in which those intent on violence can prowl, experts say. With a few exceptions, online dating companies do not conduct background checks on users or verify their identities. As a result, Illinois and several other states have passed measures aimed at making cyberspace safer.
The new Illinois Internet Dating Safety Act requires online dating websites to disclose whether they conduct background checks on members. Violators face possible fines of up to $50,000. Sen. Ira Silverstein, who sponsored the legislation, said he originally wanted to make background checks compulsory. The law’s disclosure requirement was a compromise with the industry. “It’s buyer beware,” Silverstein said. “People go to these Internet dating services and maybe assume they do background checks.” A lawsuit that a California woman filed against Match.com, claiming that the company paired her with a registered sex offender, prompted California’s attorney general to press for more screening.