In these days, many people spend time on their electronic devices to become members of internet dating services. Many companies are now providing online dating services to their members. In general, the online dating services require their members to submit a profile, which may include personal information (e.g., name, email address, date-of-birth, and photos). As a result, the internet dating service may be sued by its members or third parties for various legal claims.
What Are the Typical Legal Claims Against Internet Dating Services?
In recent years, the internet dating services have been targets of lawsuits. In some cases, the internet dating service may facilitate sexual encounters between its members, which can lead to its member being arrested for having sex with a minor. In other cases, the members defame, harass, stalk, or bully each other. In these cases, the courts have enforced or dismissed the civil claims against the internet dating service for various reasons. The typical claims against the internet dating service may be for breach of contract, negligence, deceptive trade practice, Lanham Act violation, failure to warn, invasion of privacy, defamation, or fraud. It is important to note that each of the aforesaid claims requires specific elements and supporting evidence to pass muster in court. See The Perils and Pitfalls of Online Dating for more information.
In failure to warn cases, a valid claim requires a duty to warn, a breach of that duty, and injury proximately resulting from the breach. If the danger is open and obvious, there is no duty to warn and the risk is obvious when the danger is known by the consumer. Also, it may be sufficient to mention on the website that the online dating service cannot verify its members’ information.
What Are the Other Potential Issues?
In other cases, violations can rise to the level of cyberharassment, cyberstalking or cyberbullying. In fact, cyberbullying has many manifestations, including, but not limited to, Instant Messenger, websites, e-mail, or text messages. Unfortunately, law enforcement agencies lack the technology or resources to focus on internet-based harassment, stalking or bullying. In some cases, advocates have argued that online dating services should run background checks on their members. However, even that precaution may invite liability towards them.
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