Regulation of Online Dating Services Sparks Controversy

State regulation of e-commerce is currently seeking new territory in the online dating industry. Online dating services are a lucrative and rapidly growing industry that continues to draw concerns about the manner in which its members conduct themselves.

An increasing number of U.S. states have responded to these concerns by proposing laws to regulate online dating services. This movement has created a debate over the merits of legislative regulation as opposed to self-regulation through better business models and policies.

Legislating’s Business Model is a new online dating service that promises to take a tough approach in weeding out criminals and married people. It conducts criminal background and marital status checks on all new members.

However, as the only matchmaking Web site to screen members for criminal records,’s involvement in the political arena to have states mandate similar standards from its competitors is facing criticism. has persuaded state legislatures to sponsor bills that would force its competitors, such as and Yahoo Personals, to place prominent warnings on all their e-mail and personal advertisements stating that they have not conducted felony conviction or FBI searches on the particular individual.’s competitors question its real motives and point to the fact that is the only online dating service that would not have to suffer a major disadvantage by displaying these warnings.

Pros, Cons of Criminal Screening’s main competitor,, criticizes the procedure of screening potential members for criminal records as flawed. has also expressed concerns about any government endorsement of such an initiative. states that it has considered but rejected the idea of conducting criminal background checks because national criminal databases are incomplete and criminals can avoid detection by signing up with a fake identity. As a result, believes that such a screening process could cause members to develop a false sense of security. asserts that is simply attempting to have a weak business model mandated through legislation.

While admitting that its criminal background checks are not perfect, argues that they do provide some assurance to its members. According to, a false sense of security already exists because there are users of online dating services who mistakenly believe that some of the larger dating services do perform background checks. claims that its goal is to clean up the online dating industry, which battles a constant perception that people who use matchmaking services misrepresent themselves.

New California Bill

Last week, a bill was introduced in the California legislature that created additional controversy over the implications of mandating criminal background searches of online dating members.

This bill calls for a fine of US$250 for each day that an online relationship service provider fails to disclose to all online visitors living in California that it does not conduct criminal background checks.

However, an “online relationship service provider” is defined as “a person or entity engaged, directly or indirectly, in the business, for profit, of offering, promoting, or providing access to dating, relationship, compatibility, matrimonial, or social referral services principally on or through their Web site or otherwise through the Internet.”

Opponents of this bill find that it is overreaching because it could apply to “compatibility” or “social referral” services, such as, that are far different from an online dating service.

Requirements of Proposed Laws

State legislatures in Michigan, Ohio, Virginia and Texas also have introduced very similar bills regulating online dating services. All of the proposed measures require the service provider to conduct searches for felony and sexual offense convictions from a national database containing at least 170 million criminal and sexual offender records. If the provider does not perform criminal background checks, it must disclose a warning on the Web site’s home page and all member profiles and e-mail communications accessible by the residents of the respective state.

These bills also set out the specific wording that must be used in the warning and require that the warning be in bold capital letters in at least 12 point type. Each day that a service provider fails to comply with any of the proposed requirements would constitute a separate misdemeanor offense punishable by a fine.

These legislative initiatives also have international legal consequences in that the mandates contained in them would apply to any online service provider, even those in foreign countries as long as the company in question was signing up members in the legislating state.

As to whether such legislation is needed, the jury is still out, but the one thing that is clear is that most likely a number of these initiatives will come into law. This goes to show that an online company such as can end up having governments legislate its business model even if the members of its industry see no business value in following such model.


  • For reasons unknown, IMBRA expressly exempts dating sites such as and Yahoo Personals from the law despite their large vulnerable foreign women memberships. In 2007, this exemption enabled William Trickett Smith, an American, to utilize to contact Jana Claudia Menendez, a Peruvian, without the condition of providing background information to prior to enabling free-speech communication. Smith and Melendez married in 2007 and she was found murdered that same year. Trickett is now being extradited to Peru to stand trial for her murder.

    The Tahirih "justice" Center, the National Organization for Women, Legal Momentum, the Protection Project all have blood on their hands. They purposely protected rather than the foreign women they claim to protect.

    It is now time to regulate all dating agencies that have foreign women members who can be accessed by American men. Or perhaps another murder is needed to convince you.

  • Vest once again is trying to get lawmakers to pass his background check disclosure act this time it is Illnois. Vest exploits women, doesn’t disclose his own deceptive business practices and is hiding his personal background of abuse and womanizing. I believe Vest should be exposed because he is using our lawmakers to manipulate the industry and continues to exploit women while he lies to the public of his motivates in order to line his own pockets
    An online dating site called which touts it’s self as the safer dating service and the owner Herb Vest is behind litigation to require all dating services to disclose if they conduct background checks should be investigated for date bait along with several other questionable business practices.
    Vest is being sued in Dallas, Texas by his former fiancee. The details of the woman’s case is very disturbing. Vest who is fighting to require background checks is now fighting to keep the detail affidavit by this woman seal. Vest sited it would damage his business and personal life.
    Some of the details includes Vest with prostitutes, Threesomes with lesbians. Several sexual harassment claims against Vest while at HD Vest, Inc. And, this is just the tip of the iceberg. True is now turning it’s business to the sex trade. has a contest to pick the hottest girl.’s exploitation of women:
    In addition you may want to ask Vest about the following business practices.
    Apparently, Dave Evans’ Corante blog has posters that claim they have seen documentation of fraud on the part of True. That is, ex-employees who claim that part of their job description was to pose as real people and keep people as members to motivate them to become paid subscribers.
    I think that this issue becomes even more pertinent in light of similar allegations currently against and Yahoo Personals. It is no secret that some "customer service" people that used to work at True are no longer there — and having left under curious circumstances. Vest/ HDVE could be compelled to release names of such ex-employees so they can be questioned about these allegations of fraud. Vest, Buell, and Trish Bellows should also be questioned as to whether they have any knowledge of fake/bait profiles being used by True employees at the direction of Vest and/or any of the executive management to essentially deceive or defraud customers or potential customers.
    Secrets doesn’t want made public!
    1. "Is the endorsement from Psychology Today an academic endorsement or a paid endorsement?"
    2. "You state on your site that you have a team of experts behind your testing/psychology services… who are they exactly and how do I get in touch with them in order to ask them what they specifically do for True and examples of recent work." "Or, perhaps you ( is overstating their roles as a marketing gimmick."
    3. "It seems True has been busy altering the authorship of certain online articles in its online magazine from Dr. James Houran to "Psychology Department" — implying Houran is still a part of the psychology dept. and that True has an active psychology dept." Why is it making these changes in authorship? Does the online magazine editor (Leah Gentry, formerly a journalist with the LA Times) endorse this practice?"
    4. Why has not revealed to its customers that they no longer have the benefit of Dr. James Houran? He was arguably a huge value ad to the business and the welfare of the customers, yet customers are not told he is no longer with the company. True pushes for legislation requiring disclosure and yet they curiously are not disclosing that certain features/ benefits of the site are no longer part of the price of membership."
    FYI: Dr. Jim Houran was fired in October and True is sueing him. True hasn’t disclosure that there are no experts on staff. Even the security expert is gone. The gimmicks True promotes it’s self with aren’t True!
    Also, Vest and his wife has broken their own rule : NO MARRIED PEOPLE ALLOWED. Screen names undermoose and fite both go into chat rooms. So no married people can contact members isn’t True either.

  • Interest is brewing from various quarters to require background checks for users of dating websites.
    Most users who join dating sites have no idea how effective the particular dating site is. They therefore sign-up with several dating sites either in a bid to find the ideal site, or to simply try all different sites simultaneously until they find their mate on one of them.
    If the government lays down the law that people using dating sites succumb to background checks, most people cannot afford to pay for the background check. For those who pay once and are discontented with the website, they are unlikely to pay over and over again to try other dating sites. Therefore, the government would inadvertently have dealt a big blow to online dating, which may spell the demise of online personals business.
    Read the full article here:

  • This is absolutely assinine and one more example of the government trying to legislate morality. I’ve never used an online dating service but disagree with the government trying to regulate this. When you meet someone in person, you don’t know if they have a criminal record or they’re actually married and just claiming not to be. Any reasonable adult knows they’re taking a chance when they begin seeing someone, whether they met them in person or online. It’s the responsibility of those two people to find out about one another, not to have the government tell them. I’ve really become nauseated over how the government is taking away any sense of personal responsibility and allowing everyone to think that everything bad that happens in their life is someone else’s fault.

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