Facebook’s dating service could be great

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Facebook’s announcement last week that it’s adding a dating component to its platform sparked the question: “Wait, wasn’t Facebook a dating site already?”

Well, not exactly. Yes, it does feature a lot of bikini profile shots and too many men sliding into your direct messages with the same “hello, dear” line late at night. And sure, you could stalk the page of that friend of a friend with whom you have adorable witty banter in the mutual friend’s comment section, but the quirk of Facebook has always been that the world’s most social Web site isn’t actually made for dating.

There’s no easy way to see who is single and no easy way to get in touch short of sending a direct message that could wind up in their spam folder anyway. Sorting by other features like religion or political views is even more complicated.

Facebook now will allow users to make a dating profile, separate from their current one. It’ll be opt-in, so we won’t all suddenly be in the dating pool with our Facebook friends like our great aunt and that kid who picked his nose a lot in third grade.

It makes sense. After all, who knows us better than Facebook?

For some, that’s what’s worrisome about the social-media giant getting into the dating game. In The Washington Post, Drew Harwell and Elizabeth Dwoskin warned that “Facebook’s dating service is a chance to meet the catfisher, advertiser or scammer of your dreams.” They quote Kevin Lee, the trust and safety architect of the fraud-detection startup Sift Science and a former Facebook spam manager, who says the platform “could subject users to a host of new risks, including financial fraud.”

But that would be the case on any dating platform. And Facebook’s recent problems involving the 2016 election and various privacy breaches ought to make the company more vigilant in protecting users.

On the dating site, Facebook will let the user browse events that interest them — a concert or food festival, for example — and then connect with others who will be attending that same event. The idea is to take relationships offline as much as possible and not get caught in an endless swipefest like other sites.

“This is going to be for building real, long-term relationships, not just hook-ups,” Mark Zuckerberg said when announcing the initiative.

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