Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Dangers of the Internet - Online Predators and Lawsuits Against Online Dating Websites *

Nicole Ellison and her colleagues, in "Managing Impressions Online: Self-Presentation Processes in the Online Dating Environment" (2006) describe online interactions as "more malleable and subject to self-censorship than face-to-face self-presentation." With the degree of anonymity the Internet provides, some people use this "to express themselves more openly and honestly." However, it is also true that there are people who misuse or abuse such anonymity for wicked reasons.

Be wary of deceptive males or females online .
Ellison et al. mention deception as the major waterloo of cyber dating, and over 86% of those who participated in an online dating survey in 2006 "felt others misrepresented their physical appearance." Citing a 2001 study, they also reveal that "...over a quarter of online dating participants reported misrepresenting some aspect of their identity, most commonly age (14%), marital status (10%), and appearance (10%)." Dr. Esther Gwinnell, one of the authors of Online Seductions, explains that a number of these liars are predators who "understand the blind spots and opportunities of computer relationships, and use them to take advantage of others." These people normally entice their potential victim to have an intimate affair with them and/or to give them money for seemingly valid reasons.

To address the issue of safety and credibility, claims to engage in background checks to bar married men and women, as well as felons from joining the site. Yet, as Online Dating Magazine reports in 2007, has been the subject of a lawsuit for "alleged excessive charges to members who use the service and for how cancel the company's billing practices."

Additionally, law firm Harwood Feffer LLP sued - one of the popular dating sites - in December 2010 "for its deceptive practices", which include posting fake profiles and for lying about "its membership numbers to deceive and lure subscribers." Another recent development is the charges of fraud and malpractice filed against Deniro Marketing LLC which owns Online CupidTM Communications. These suits are akin to the case that Yahoo!, Inc. had to settle with Robert Anthony and other paid subscribers of Yahoo! Personals between October 1, 2004 and August 3, 2007. Court documents show that Yahoo! paid US$4 million to resolve the issue, with each member of the class suit receiving $35 checks in June 2010.

*This is the continuation of Searching for a Date Online. Read the last part of this post here - Safety Tips While Finding a Date in Cyberspace

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