There is a woman in Nevada suing Match.com, the online dating site, for ten million dollars claiming that it did not provide enough overt warnings to site users of the dangers of dating. The story is, indeed tragic: the woman did meet a man on Match.com, and after a few dates, he brutally attacked her (and later killed another woman). The man, however, had no previous criminal record.
Is it any website owner’s responsibility for the private conduct of people who meet through it? The answer has to be a resounding “no”. Now, if a website asserted that it screened users for being on sex offender registries and it did not, it should be held responsible. This, of course, would only identify those who had been convicted of crimes and would not have helped screen out this woman’s attacker.
In the end, the users of websites, and dare I say anyone who meets people anywhere, must take responsibility for their own choices. For example, should a bar be responsible for any two people who meet on premises? Should the Yellow Pages be responsible for a bad plumber that buys ad space? Should the local government be responsible for two people who meet at the city pool? Should a woman who introduces two friends be responsible for their conduct? How about two people who meet at a church?
In the end, most websites like match.com are just publishing forums; that is, they are a place for people to put information. Viewers of that information must make prudent decisions about what to do with it.
Match.com has a very clear membership agreement. It states in bold, all caps text: “YOU ARE SOLELY RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR INTERACTIONS WITH OTHER MEMBERS. “ Read the rest here.
I’m not sure if we have lost all sense personal responsibility when we allow people to roll the dice and file lawsuits like this. Seem only fair that if this woman loses, her lawyers should pay the legal costs of match.com. Because, if there is any justice, she should get her case dismissed immediately.