On Dating Sites, Nobody Knows You’re a Dog

Image by Peter Steiner, The New Yorker, July 5, 1993

Researchers: Borke Obada and Yue Huang

While all forms of online interaction has some form of risks, however, the riskiest form of online interactions are those that cross from the online platform to the offline world. If an offline interaction goes bad, the victim involved can suffer violence in any form and potentially death. These types of online-to offline interactions are referred to as Computer Mediated Introductions (CMI), and online dating sites are the most delicate of these type of interactions; this is because most users of these sites are emotionally vulnerable and susceptible to the various kinds of harms that can take place [1].

Many sexual offences occur online largely due to the anonymity involved in the use of online dating platforms [2]. The National Crime Agency of UK reported a six-fold increase in the number of online-dating initiated sexual offences.  Sexual assault does not have a singular impact, but affects several areas of a person’s life [3] and most sexual assaults cases go unreported.  There is therefore a growing need to better secure users of online dating platforms and prevent them from having online and potentially offline interactions with dating sites scammers.
With dating sites being the most vulnerable type of CMI, an improvement in the security of these platforms will greatly secure other type of CMI platforms (such as Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, Facebook, Craigslist, Couchsurfing, Kijiji and many others).


  1. Simon Edmunds. Scammers & online dating fraud: 2015 trends and tactics. https://scamalytics.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/GDI- Scammers-Online-Dating-Fraud-Scamalytics.pdf/, 2015.
  2. Lavery, C. (2017). Masquerading Sanity: Crimes, Violence & Victimization on the Internet. ActaPsychopathologica, 3(3).
  3. Smith, C. J. (2016). Examining sexual harassment in online dating contexts. Illinois State University.