Should online dating sites be responsible when their couplings end in violence?
Wed, Jan 30, 2013 (3:12 p.m.)
It just wasn’t working out between Las Vegas residents Mary Kay Beckman and Wade Ridley. They met on match.com and went on a couple dates, but Beckman called it off. She wasn’t feeling it. Then, one night, Beckman came home and found Ridley hidden in her garage—this according to a court document. He stabbed her 10 times in the face and upper body until the knife broke. Then he stomped and kicked her head until, he assumed, she was dead.
Ridley died in prison last year, but Beckman is still seeking justice. She’s suing match.com for $10 million, arguing that the site’s safety tips and warnings don’t go far enough. Match.com calls the lawsuit “absurd.” But is it? Beckman could argue that the popular online dating site should have prominent warnings, as cigarettes and alcohol do. She could argue that dating websites like match.com act as matchmakers between total strangers, assuming a “special guardian” role, which carries with it special responsibilities.
Of course, match.com already has warnings posted on its site: “You are solely responsible for your interactions with other members. You understand that match.com currently does not conduct criminal background checks on its members.” But this text is part of an extra-long, scroll-down legal page that few people actually read. The site doesn’t require you to click the page containing the warning text before moving forward with your profile.
Craigslist’s “personals” section, by comparison, has a short four-point disclaimer that’s nearly impossible to avoid. The fourth point: “By clicking on the links below, I release Craigslist from any liability that may arise from my use of this site.”
The most prominent thought on the match.com homepage reads, “Match.com singles are serious about finding love.” Which for Ridley, in a very sick way, proved true.