Online Dating Association launches “Safety First” campaign and expands overseas to the US

The Online Dating Association (ODA) is launching a “Safety First” campaign in the UK and US to explore, set and promote best practice for dating service providers and their users.

The campaign calls on services providers to review their safety processes to ensure they are appropriate, and it recommends how they could encourage their users to behave towards and respect each other.

The campaign is supported by leading internet safety, fraud prevention and law enforcement bodies on both sides of the Atlantic. They have come together for the first time to emphasise the importance of safe dating.

They include the Date Safe group of law enforcers and others led by the City of London Police, UK Finance, the collective voice for the banking and finance industry, Get Safe Online, and dating operators including the Meet Group, and leading US service providers and active supporters of the ODA.

It is the first time that the ODA has campaigned on an international basis, having until now been a UK-focused trade body. The new development reflects the increasingly global nature of online dating platforms, the universality of the harms and challenges we seek to combat and, therefore, the need for consistent safety standards wherever in the world the service operates.

As well as promoting the Safety First dating message, the ODA is looking to expand its membership as more dating service providers recognise the important work that it does for the industry.

George Kidd, CEO of the ODA, said: “Dating services are part of our social fabric. Dating service providers take this responsibility seriously. They act individually and collectively to make the dating experience as safe as possible. Our Safety First initiative provides tools that any and every service can use to review and, if possible, improve their arrangements.

“Nearly half of users polled recently said they want services to be tougher in dealing with people who behave inappropriately on dating services. We agree.

“It is not enough for rules on behaviour to be tucked away in the small print, in terms and conditions sections that few will ever read. It is time to be up-front with users about expected and unacceptable behaviour online. Our campaign provides the tool that dating services can adopt and adapt to their user base.”

Fred Beckley, General Counsel and EVP Business Affairs at The Meet Group, said:

“Joining forces to promote and impact safety practices in the online dating community simply makes sense. We believe that by bringing together law enforcement, fraud prevention agencies and corporations, the Safety First campaign creates a powerful force to influence safety standards across the social landscape. The Meet Group is pleased to team with the ODA and to contribute to this important initiative.”

Tony Neate, CEO of Get Safe Online, said:

“Online dating provides so much convenience and choice. But it’s also important that it happens in a safe and secure manner. This latest ‘Safety First’ campaign emphasises the importance of safety when it comes to online dating and encourages online dating services to do all they can to make it as safe as possible. With Valentine Day fast approaching, the timing couldn’t be better.”

Katy Worobec, Managing Director of Economic Crime, UK Finance, said:

“Fraud affects the whole of society and so it’s vital we cooperate across sectors to tackle it. This important initiative will help online dating providers protect their users from romance scams, working together with law enforcement and the banking and finance industry.

“We would always urge customers to follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign and be suspicious of any requests for money from someone you have never met in person.

“If you think you may have fallen victim to a romance scam, contact your bank straight away and report it to Action Fraud.”

Detective Superintendent Alex Rothwell, City of London Police, said:

“Cynical criminals are out there, ready to exploit people who are looking for love. Advice to help to equip people with the know-how to spot potential fraudsters on dating sites is key in helping to prevent more victims falling for this callous fraud. Online daters should be sure that people are who they say they are – and be suspicious of anyone who asks for money.

“We’d encourage anyone in the UK who thinks they might have been a victim of romance fraud to report this to Action Fraud.”

The Safety First campaign includes a “Framework for User Safety”, which seeks to promote best practice among service providers, and the “Model Code of User Conduct” which outlines how users should behave.

The new Framework for User Safety sets out the critical issues where responsible dating services should have policies and practices in place to make dating as safe and enjoyable as possible. It addresses:

  • the need to monitor profiles and content
  • the case for safe messaging systems and other mechanics for blocking scammers
  • action to keep under 18s off services
  • reporting mechanisms in the event of problems
  • prominent advice and guidance on how to enjoy services and dating safely.

People sometimes engage in totally inappropriate behaviours online that they would not do in person. The Model Code of User Conduct identifies the positive behaviours a service might expect from users and sets out those behaviours and actions that are not acceptable.

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.

The Framework for User Safety and Model Code of User Conduct set out the key issues that the ODA has identified. They are not prescriptive.

They are in the form of guidance that dating services can choose to use and adapt as they think necessary. This would reflect the services they provide and how they wish to address safety and user conduct. In providing guidance and information on good practice the ODA is not acting as an approvals or enforcement body.


For more information

Note to editors

The Safety First campaign materials can be seen here:

The ODA was set up in 2014 to develop and maintain standards that give users assurance and ensure businesses trade responsibly. It seeks also to inform policy makers and to promote messages to users that minimise the risk of harm.