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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