Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Don't Legislate Dating

Online industry insiders are absolutely correct: A bill advanced out of a Senate committee on Monday that would require Internet dating services to disclose whether criminal background checks are performed on members is pretty much worthless. The legislation even requires that dating services warn subscribers that such screenings aren't foolproof, may provide a false sense of security and can easily be circumvented by the use of a false name.

So what's the point of the bill? Nothing, nothing whatsoever. Not even the state Attorney General's Office is supporting the measure.

N.J. lawmakers are promoting the bill for one simple reason: their uncontrollable urge to pander to citizens whenever possible, this time by creating the impression that this bill makes legislators strong on public safety, when in actuality the measure is a waste of their time and the public's.

Instead, senators ought to listen to Steve DelBianco, director of NetChoice, a coalition of e-commerce companies and trade groups such as Orbitz and Yahoo, who said of the legislation: "Child predators and convicted criminals don't use online dating services to find their victims. They don't even use off-line dating services, for that matter." Exactly.

Meantime, there is a lot to be said for personal responsibility in the quest for safer online dating. Users of Internet dating services are crazy not to realize that online personalities often aren't who or what they say they are. Caution is advised, but caution can't be legislated.

Lawmakers need to move on to more important matters.

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