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His dating app profile said he wanted “to find someone to marry.”Deveau had used dating websites for years, but she told her adult daughter the men she met were “dorky.” She joked about how she could get “catfished” if a date looked nothing like his picture. The two were — in the popular dating platform’s jargon — “matched.”A background check would have revealed that Papamechail was a three-time convicted rapist.It would have shown that Massachusetts designated him a dangerous registered sex offender.But over this same period, as Match evolved into the publicly traded Match Group and bought its competitors, the company hasn’t extended this practice across its platforms — including Plenty of Fish, its second most popular dating app.The lack of a uniform policy allows convicted and accused perpetrators to access Match Group apps and leaves users vulnerable to sexual assault, a 16-month investigation by Columbia Journalism Investigations found.Match Group, which owns most major online dating services, screens for sexual predators on Match — but not on Tinder, Ok Cupid, or Plenty of Fish.A spokesperson said, “There are definitely registered sex offenders on our free products.” Susan Deveau saw Mark Papamechail’s online dating profile on Plenty of Fish in late 2016.In a 2012 agreement on best industry practices between the attorney general’s office and the dating site, among others, the company again agreed to “identify sexual predators” and examine sex offender registries.
A Match Group spokesperson told CJI the company cannot implement a uniform screening protocol because it doesn’t collect enough information from its free users — and some paid subscribers — even when they pay for premium features.It puts responsibility for policing its users on users themselves.Customers who sign its service agreement promise they haven’t committed “a felony or indictable offense (or crime of similar severity), a sex crime, or any crime involving violence,” and aren’t “required to register as a sex offender with any state, federal or local sex offender registry.” Plenty of Fish doesn’t attempt to verify whether its users tell the truth, according to the company. They chatted online and eventually arranged a date. But months after their Plenty of Fish match, Deveau became the second woman to report to police that Papamechail raped her after they had met through a dating app.Within months, Match’s lawyers told the judge that “a screening process has been initiated,” records show.
After the settlement, the company’s attorneys declared the site was “checking subscribers against state and national sex offender registries.” The next year, Match made similar assurances to then–California Attorney General Kamala Harris.
Other response protocols aren’t standardized across Match Group apps.