HB 531

A bill to be entitled
2An act relating to online dating services; creating ss.
3501.165-501.171, F.S., the "Internet Predator Awareness
4Act"; providing legislative findings; defining terms;
5requiring certain disclosures by online dating services;
6providing a clearinghouse for consumers; providing civil
7penalties; providing exclusions; providing a directive to
8the Division of Statutory Revision; providing
9severability; providing an effective date.
11Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
13     Section 1.  Section 501.165, Florida Statutes, is created
14to read:
15     501.165  Internet Predator Awareness Act; legislative
17     (1)  Sections 501.165-501.171 may be cited as the "Internet
18Predator Awareness Act."
19     (2)(a)  The Legislature has received public testimony that
20criminals and sex offenders use online dating services to prey
21upon the citizens of this state.
22     (b)  The Legislature finds that residents of this state
23need to be informed when viewing websites of online dating
24services as to potential risks to personal safety associated
25with online dating. Also, requiring disclosures in the form of
26guidelines for safer dating and informing residents as to
27whether a criminal background screening has been conducted on
28members of an online dating service fulfills a compelling state
29interest to increase public awareness of the possible risks
30associated with Internet dating activities.
31     (c)  The Legislature finds that the acts of transmitting
32over the Internet electronic dating information addressed to
33residents of the state or accepting membership fees from
34residents of the state show that an online dating service
35provider is operating, conducting, engaging in, and otherwise
36carrying on a business in the state and subject such an online
37dating service provider to regulation by the state and to the
38jurisdiction of the state's courts.
39     Section 2.  Section 501.166, Florida Statutes, is created
40to read:
41     501.166  Definitions.--As used in ss. 501.165-501.171:
42     (1)  "Communicate," "communicating," or "communication"
43means free-form text authored by a member or real-time voice
44communication through an online dating service provider.
45     (2)  "Criminal background screening" means a search for a
46person's felony and sexual offense convictions initiated by an
47online dating service provider and conducted by one of the
48following means:
49     (a)  By searching available and regularly updated
50government public record databases for felony and sexual offense
51convictions so long as such databases, in the aggregate, provide
52substantial national coverage; or
53     (b)  By searching a database maintained by a private vendor
54that is regularly updated and is maintained in the United States
55with substantial national coverage of criminal history records
56and sexual offender registries.
57     (3)  "Department" means the Department of Agriculture and
58Consumer Services.
59     (4)  "Florida member" means a member as defined in this
60section who provides a Florida billing address or zip code when
61registering with the provider.
62     (5)  "Member" means a person who submits to an online
63dating service provider the information required by the provider
64to access the provider's service for the purpose of engaging in
65dating and participating in compatibility evaluations with other
66persons or obtaining matrimonial matching services.
67     (6)  "Online dating service provider" or "provider" means a
68person engaged in the business of offering or providing to its
69members access to dating and compatibility evaluations between
70persons or matrimonial matching services through the Internet.
71     (7)  "Sexual offense conviction" means a conviction for an
72offense that would qualify the offender for registration as a
73sexual offender under s. 943.0435 or under another
74jurisdiction's equivalent statute.
75     Section 3.  Section 501.167, Florida Statutes, is created
76to read:
77     501.167  Provider safety awareness disclosures.--An online
78dating service provider offering services to Florida members
80     (1)  Provide a safety awareness notification with, at a
81minimum, information that includes a list and description of
82safety measures reasonably designed to increase awareness of
83safer dating practices as determined by the provider. Examples
84of such notifications include:
85     (a)  "Anyone who is able to commit identity theft can also
86falsify a dating profile."
87     (b)  "There is no substitute for acting with caution when
88communicating with a stranger who wants to meet you."
89     (c)  "Never include your last name, e-mail address, home
90address, phone number, place of work, or any other identifying
91information in your online profile or initial e-mail messages.
92Stop communicating with anyone who pressures you for personal or
93financial information or attempts in any way to trick you into
94revealing it."
95     (d)  "If you choose to have a face-to-face meeting with
96another member, always tell a family member or a friend where
97you are going and when you will return. Never agree to be picked
98up at your home. Always provide your own transportation to and
99from your date and meet in a public place at a time with many
100people around."
101     (2)  If an online dating service provider does not conduct
102criminal background screenings on its members, the provider
103shall disclose, clearly and conspicuously, to all Florida
104members that the online dating service provider does not conduct
105criminal background screenings. The disclosure shall be provided
106when an e-mail or other text message is sent or received by a
107Florida member, on the profile describing a member to a Florida
108member, and on the provider's website pages used when a Florida
109member signs up. A disclosure under this subsection shall be in
110bold, capital letters in at least 12-point type.
111     (3)  If an online dating service provider conducts criminal
112background screenings on all of its communicating members, the
113provider shall disclose, clearly and conspicuously, to all
114Florida members that the online dating service provider conducts
115a criminal background screening on each member prior to
116permitting a Florida member to communicate with another member.
117The disclosure shall be provided on the provider's website pages
118used when a Florida member signs up. A disclosure under this
119subsection shall be in bold, capital letters in at least 12-
120point type.
121     (4)  If an online dating service provider conducts criminal
122background screenings, the provider shall disclose that
123background screenings of applicants are not perfect and there is
124no way to guarantee that the name provided by a person to be
125used in a background screening is the person's true identity.
126Also, not all criminal records are publicly available.
127Therefore, the screenings may not identify every member who has
128a felony or sexual offense conviction and members should
129participate in the service at their own risk and use caution
130when communicating with other members. Additionally, the
131provider shall disclose whether it has a policy allowing a
132member who has been identified as having a felony or sexual
133offense conviction to have access to its service to communicate
134with any Florida member.
135     Section 4.  Section 501.168, Florida Statutes, is created
136to read:
137     501.168  Clearinghouse.--The department shall serve as the
138clearinghouse for intake of information concerning ss.
139501.165-501.171 from consumers, residents, and victims. The
140consumer hotline may be used for this purpose. Information
141obtained shall be directed to the appropriate enforcement
142entity, as determined by the department.
143     Section 5.  Section 501.169, Florida Statutes, is created
144to read:
145     501.169  Civil penalties.--
146     (1)  An online dating service provider that registers
147Florida members must comply with the provisions of ss. 501.165-
149     (2)  Failure to comply with the disclosure requirements of
150ss. 501.165-501.171 shall constitute a deceptive and unfair
151trade practice under part II. Each failure to provide a required
152disclosure constitutes a separate violation.
153     (3)  In addition to the remedy provided in subsection (2),
154the court may impose a civil penalty of up to $1,000 per
155violation, with an aggregate total not to exceed $25,000 for any
15624-hour period, against any online dating service provider that
157violates any requirement of ss. 501.165-501.171. Suit may be
158brought by an enforcing authority as defined in s. 501.203. Any
159penalties collected shall accrue to the enforcing authority or
160the department's Division of Consumer Services to further
161consumer enforcement efforts.
162     Section 6.  Section 501.171, Florida Statutes, is created
163to read:
164     501.171  Exclusions.--
165     (1)  An Internet access service or other Internet service
166provider does not violate ss. 501.165-501.171 solely as a result
167of serving as an intermediary for the transmission of a
168communication between members of an online dating service
170     (2)  An Internet access service or other Internet service
171provider shall not be considered an online dating service
172provider within the meaning of ss. 501.165-501.171 as to any
173online dating service website provided by another person or
175     Section 7.  The Division of Statutory Revision is directed
176to include the provisions of sections 501.165-501.171, Florida
177Statutes, in part I of chapter 501, Florida Statutes.
178     Section 8.  If any provision of this act or the application
179thereof to any person or circumstance is held invalid, the
180invalidity does not affect other provisions or applications of
181this act that can be given effect without the invalid provision
182or application, and to this end the provisions of this act are
183declared severable.
184     Section 9.  This act shall take effect July 1, 2007.

CODING: Words stricken are deletions; words underlined are additions.