Dating services are part of everyday life for millions, often accounting for around a third of all new relationships in markets around the world.
With this reach comes new responsibilities and higher expectations. Politicians, law enforcement, consumer protection agencies and the media all have a real and ongoing interest in what is done to deal with the risks that might arise with new online relationships and first meetings in person.
The Online Dating Association’s (ODA) “Safety First” campaign comes against this backdrop.
This activity builds on the ODA’s previous information campaigns to promote online dating as an enjoyable, safe and fun experience. Activity has focused on how to be safe on a date, avoiding scams, writing profiles, getting to know someone, meeting in person, reporting concerns and sexual health and wellbeing.
This activity is detailed on the ODA site at https://www.onlinedatingassociation.org.uk/date-safe/top-safety-tips.html
Introduction to safer dating
Online safety and behaviour issues can be a threat to the welfare and experience of users. The industry has a responsibility to address these threats if we are to retain the confidence of users and regulators around the world.
Maintaining trust and confidence is critical when dealing with dating. It is key to the sector’s ability to inform and influence policy makers, law enforcers and others to ensure their actions are practical, proportionate and targeted.
Supporting the measures the industry is taking to ensure a safe dating environment has been central to the ODA since we started out in 2014. Our initial Code of Practice, which has evolved into a package of guidance and good practice, contains various provisions on safety advice, profile checking and fraud prevention.
Throughout this time, we have focused on critical issues including data security, safety messaging and commercial terms of business.
Now, in our next phase of development, the ODA will be coming together with a wider group of interested parties and extending the reach internationally.
As part of the campaign we will refresh, expand and share our ODA safety materials with the sector. We aim
- To see good practice applied by all, to reduce the risk of harm to users
- To demonstrate this to outside stakeholders whose actions can impact on us.
The ODA does not impose or prescribe membership conditions. Our work, and the responsible actions of our members, allows us to inform and influence those whose actions could have an impact on dating services and their users.
The Safety First campaign
The core elements of the initiative have been developed so any service anywhere in the world can use them to test their safety arrangements.
- Framework for User Safety. This is aimed at dating service providers. It is designed to help them to review their current practices to ensure they are meeting the current standards of best practice. It flags the key safety issues that services should have policies and procedures in place to address.
- Model Code of User Conduct: this new approach to communicating with users identifies the positive behaviours that users should adopt. It also flags those behaviours that are likely to be unacceptable on most, and possibly all, services. Too often these are lost in Terms and Conditions rather than put to users in a clear and positive way.
These documents are not prescriptive, mandatory or binding. They aim to flag the core issues that should be addressed. As such, they are a tool that dating services can use when they
- review the safety arrangements they have in place
The ODA will be working alongside third parties who also have a stake in the safety of online dating. These will include law enforcement bodies, internet safety and fraud protection bodies. Together, we will actively encourage all dating services to use the moment and the Framework to make sure they are satisfied their safety arrangements are fit for purpose and think whether improvements might be possible.
These partnerships sit alongside the work we do with dating services to show that the sector goes the extra mile in trying to protect their users.
The Framework for User Safety and Model Code of User Conduct set out what we think to be the key issues. They are not prescriptive. They are in the form of guidance that dating services can choose to use and adapt as they think necessary to reflect the services they provide. In providing guidance and information on good practice the ODA is not acting as an approvals or enforcement body.
Going forward the ODA will continue to work with members and others to see where and how it would be helpful to provide supplementary guidance. Over time, we will also review the initiative and explore how to improve it.
How dating services can get involved
We are encouraging all mainstream dating services whether in the UK, the US or elsewhere to become members of the ODA.
Engaging more international and global entities to use the Framework and Model will add to our strength of voice with Governments, regulators and others. It will also underpin the role that the ODA seeks to play in ensuring a stable environment in which the dating industry can continue to develop.
If you would like to know more about the campaign or what dating services can do to support it, please contact us at the ODA - [email protected]