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Colorado lawmakers seek to regulate dating apps following cardiologist case: "Something clearly has to be done"

Lawmakers seek to regulate dating apps following Colorado cardiologist case
Lawmakers seek to regulate dating apps following Colorado cardiologist case 03:47

Looking to bring accountability to online dating apps, several Colorado lawmakers have introduced a bill to regulate dating apps and protect users from assaults, harassment and exploitation stemming from the use of the popular apps, according to the bill's sponsor, Sen. Faith Winter, a Democrat representing Adams County.

Stephen Matthews Denver Police

"Something clearly has to be done," said Winter, who said part of the impetus for her bill was the case of Denver cardiologist Dr. Stephen Matthews, who is facing 38 felony charges for allegedly drugging 11 women he met on dating apps between 2020 and 2023, then allegedly sexually assaulting nine of them. Matthews is scheduled to stand trial in March. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

"We want to prevent the same kinds of things from happening," said Winter.

Her bill will face its first public hearing on Feb. 12, two days before Valentine's Day, which Winter said is not a coincidence.

The proposed measure would require dating apps to:

  • Have a posted safety policy on their sites
  • Guidelines for reporting misconduct committed by a member
  • Posting a notice that engaging in sex with another person without consent violates the safety policy and criminal laws
  • Apps would have to file annual reports with the Colorado Attorney General's Office about reports of misconduct by their members and actions taken by the app
  • Dating apps would have to reveal the number of members barred each year due to misconduct

Winter said the goal is to "protect the users of these apps."

She said the Matthews case and other cases prompted her to push for regulation of the dating apps. 

CBS News Colorado previously reported that Matthews, who had dating profiles on Hinge and Tinder, was reported to Hinge in 2020 as having allegedly raped a woman he met on the site. But despite assurances from Hinge that Matthews was banned from the platform, three years after the first documented accusation, Matthews still had a profile on Hinge and was able to meet and date numerous other women. At least one says Matthews sexually assaulted her long after he had been reported to Hinge. Many of the women who encountered Matthews through dating apps have now retained attorneys and are planning to sue.

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A spokesperson for the Match Group, the parent company of Hinge and Tinder, said they were aware of the new Colorado legislation. She said the company would not agree to an on-camera interview but provided a written statement, saying they are "continuously investing in ways to enhance the safety and security tools offered to users across Match Group's portfolio. We believe this is a societal effort," wrote the company, "and are in active discussions with Colorado lawmakers and regularly work with law enforcement."

The Colorado move to install guardrails on dating apps closely mirrors a new law in Connecticut that went into effect in January. The Connecticut law is also intended to boost safety for dating app users according to one news report, "and hold dating companies accountable for certain aspects of their business." Much like the Colorado legislation, the Connecticut law requires companies to provide reporting procedures for unwanted behaviors, record complaints and offer safety advice.

Winter said she believes the Colorado measure will get traction and become law. "There's going to be amendments but I am optimistic that it is going to become law and we are going to be able to protect the users of these apps."

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