States Move Forward With Pointless Anti-Competitive Dating Site Law

from the pointless-politicians dept

Last month, there was a story about how some online dating site that claims to do background checks on its members (though, they don't actually check to make sure the person is who they say they are) was trying to get state politicians to pass laws requiring such checks or force other dating or social networking sites to put a huge notice saying: "WARNING: WE HAVE NOT CONDUCTED A FELONY-CONVICTION SEARCH OR FBI SEARCH ON THIS INDIVIDUAL." This law is obviously completely pointless other than to try to make life difficult for the competition of this one tiny dot com dating site. However, it appears that a number of clueless politicians are buying it, and just such a law is moving forward in a number of states, with Michigan leading the way. What's amusing (though, in other ways, scary) is the rationale one of the Michigan sponsors is giving: "There are inherent dangers in the whole area of the Internet. Something needs to be done." This seems like a fairly typical political response. Something isn't perfect, so a law must be passed -- even if it will have no impact and (if anything) likely make the situation worse, not better. Of course, for the dating site that is pushing all of these laws, it's only going to backfire on them if the law passes -- because then those other sites will start doing background checks, and this site will lose its one tiny, pointless differentiating factor. You have to wonder if they pushed for the legislation with the belief that there was no way it would pass -- but they were likely to get some press out of it. Now what will they do if it actually does pass?


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    Raymond Chen, Mar 28th, 2005 @ 4:16pm

    It's the politician's fallacy

    1. Something must be done.
    2. This is something.
    3. Therefore, we must do it.

     

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    dorpus, Mar 28th, 2005 @ 5:37pm

    Not so simple

    What about dating sites where minors can have illicit relationships with adults? This isn't a theoretical possibility, it is a big problem throughout East Asia. Enforcement has been virtually impossible -- minors can pose as adults, web sites change addresses by the week.

    Or is this the "free market" that some people so eagerly endorse?

     

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      Greg Nelson, Mar 28th, 2005 @ 8:00pm

      Re: Not so simple

      If the minors can pose as adults and borrow their parents credit card, then I dont see how any form checking, other than face to face communication with the site member would prevent this.

      If you are making a point that the web sites aren't held responsible for providing these web sites, I would have thought they would have fallen under the umbrella of some 'it's illegal to facilitate or encourage sex with minors' law. As Mike states on occasion there is no need for specific internet laws when they are covered by existing legislation.

      If your problem is the impossible enforcement, that's not even relevant to the discussion.

      I just dont get the point you are making.

      And what's with the pointless dig at free markets?

       

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        dorpus, Mar 28th, 2005 @ 8:20pm

        Re: Not so simple

        "If the minors can pose as adults and borrow their parents credit card, then I dont see how any form checking, other than face to face communication with the site member would prevent this."

        Women don't usually have to pay. But the point is, the dating services are not conducting background checks, whether or not credit cards are involved.

        "If you are making a point that the web sites aren't held responsible for providing these web sites, "

        You'll have to clarify your sentence, it doesn't make any sense.

        "I would have thought they would have fallen under the umbrella of some 'it's illegal to facilitate or encourage sex with minors' law. As Mike states on occasion there is no need for specific internet laws when they are covered by existing legislation."

        Still, if web sites, e.g. Craigslist (where a lot of informal prostitution occurs) can get away with the claim that they are not "facilitating" it, then there is a problem.

        "If your problem is the impossible enforcement, that's not even relevant to the discussion."

        You obviously have no background in criminology or public health. Laws are needed as a tool for enforcers to stop abuses.

        "And what's with the pointless dig at free markets?"

        Many so-called free market ideas sound good on the surface, but harm the public's well-being.

         

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          dorpus, Mar 28th, 2005 @ 8:29pm

          Re: Not so simple

          If free markets are so good, should we live in a society where car makers charge $10,000 extra for cars with seat belts? How about a society where tobacco companies can run TV ads promoting tobacco for children?

          If the computer industry wants to grow up and be taken seriously by the rest of society, then it will have to accept the moral responsibilities, and the extensive regulation that goes with it. "Self-regulation" is a fantasy that hasn't worked in any industry.

           

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            Tim, Mar 29th, 2005 @ 4:58am

            Re: Not so simple

            Is a free market one that ignores, or is led by, its customers? If nobody buys a car because of the extra upset cost to get seat-belts, will they not change their strategy?

             

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              dorpus, Mar 29th, 2005 @ 5:56am

              Re: Not so simple

              There's only so many car makers, so all car makers could ignore customer demand, or charge a huge fee. Enron talked about the glory of "free markets", and what happened?

              As for "giving customers what they want", kids wants cigarettes too, but it doesn't mean we should have a free market.

               

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                Greg Nelson, Mar 30th, 2005 @ 3:48am

                Re: Not so simple

                Quickly, The free market you are talking about the economic anti-thesis of communism. It's idealism. A fool believes in the economic viability of either, the practicalities of human nature make both impossible.

                When one, with out a 'radical streak' mentions free markets, they generally are talking about the removal of government subsidies of industries, the removal of trade tarrifs and the encouragement of competition etc.

                I would be interested if oyu were referring to this site or Mike when you using 'some people'

                 

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    Greg Nelson, Mar 28th, 2005 @ 7:46pm

    Strategic Advantage

    Mike, I agree.

    This is ANTI-strategy at work.

    Creating a web site that differentiates from others by providing background checks on their users is great unique value add and gives some people piece of mind. It's a classic example of taking advantage of a niche of customers who are 'under provided'.

    Now to go ahead and legislate your strategic advantage into every competitor is witless, and showing an incredible lack of strategic foresight. All it is doing is creating a temporary pressure on their competitors that most will easily bounce back from, and erode their long term position.

    The mind boggles.

     

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