Unethical Website Of The Month: OKCupid…The First Corporate Fick!


The ignominy of mere Ethics Dunce status is too good for OKCupid CEO Christian Rudder and his online dating service, and Unethical Website of the Month doesn’t do it justice either. The online dating website has revealed itself as an ethics outlaw, and a smug one. It is lying to its customers,  toying with the lives of vulnerable people who trust it, and doesn’t see anything wrong with its conduct.

That qualifies OKCupid as a Corporate Fick, the first ever so-identified here. As stated in the blog glossary of terms and concepts, a fick is someone who openly and blatantly violates social norms of responsibility, honesty or fairness without shame or remorse. That description fits OKCupid to a fare-thee-well.

In case you missed the story, the website revealed—proudly, in fact—that it intentionally set up users with bad dates, or mismatched by its own compatibility formulas, to see how people would behave. The uproar over Facebook’s undisclosed manipulation of users’ moods prompted the disclosure.Facebook’s experiment violated research ethics standards, and the company was misrepresenting both law and ethics when it claimed that they had Facebook user’s consent to use them as cyber lab rats. That was bad. This is infinitely worse.

By its own admission, OKCupid, for its own amusement, edification, sense of power, market research, is messing around with people’s relationships and lives. Desperate people seek out companionship and long term romantic relationships, and they trust OKCupid to help them “find the right people,” like it says on the home page. They take the site at its word that those running the free service “use math to get you dates.” “It’s extremely accurate,” the site promises, “as long as (a) you’re honest, and (b) you know what you want…We don’t claim to evaluate you perfectly, but we do claim to find someone who claims to fulfill your claimed requirements, exactly.”

You have to give them credit for expert deceit. They only say that they claim to “find someone who claims to fulfill your claimed requirements, exactly,” they never actually say that they deliver on the claim. Cute, but not enough to avoid the verdict of intentional misrepresentation. After puffery like this, after saying that the service is accurate, scientific, and will “use math” to “find the right people,” it is no less than a betrayal for to site to intentionally try to find the wrong person, and tell a trusting, hopeful user otherwise. OKCupid also includes a user agreement stating that it may use a user’s data and information for research, but as in teh Facebook case, this does not constitute sufficiently informed consent for human experimentation, which is what OKCupid is doing when it tries to see if an intentionally bad match looks good to a user because he or she believes the dating site’s lies.

Christian Rudder, OKCupid’s CEO, guaranteed his company’s fick status with a confession of gleeful unethical conduct on his blog. The post’s offensive tone is, in essence, a shrug: Yeah we experimented on you: so what? 1) Everybody does it  and 2) you didn’t really believe that we could pick the right dates for you did you? Rudder writes…

“I’m the first to admit it: we might be popular, we might create a lot of great relationships, we might blah blah blah. But OkCupid doesn’t really know what it’s doing.”

Then why does your website’s text still say that OKCupid knows what it’s doing, you smug, dishonest cheat? There is no need to read the rest of the post: there it is. “We are lying to you, and you were fools to believe us. But never mind—we think you should still trust us.”

If anyone trusts OKCupid after this smoking gun evidence of its duplicity and contempt for fairness, such users have accepted the terms of dealing with a fick, and I will have no sympathy with them, even if the end up married to Ray Rice.  This is a business that thinks it is acceptable to lie to its users, and rather than make a good faith effort to try to find soul mates for lonely people, use its misrepresentations to put  people in bad relationships that its own system predicts will fail. It deserves condemnation and universal rejection, as all ficks do.

[Note: Rudder is the same unethical jerk who called for a boycott of Mozilla because its then CEO had dared to exercise his rights as an American citizen and make a contribution to a groups opposing the legalization of gay marriage. Rudder helped get Brendon Eich fired for expressing an opinion six years ago. OKCupid is run by an unapologetic manipulator who embraces situational ethics of the most dubious and irresponsible sort. No wonder his company is a fick.]

Facts: Huffington Post,  USA Today

7 thoughts on “Unethical Website Of The Month: OKCupid…The First Corporate Fick!

  1. So, apparently Rudder was planning on going out of business?! He doesn’t suppose people will still use his service, surely? (My names not Shirley.)
    Staggeringly dumb and viciously unethical.

  2. It seems this ‘revelation’ is part of a larger marketing strategy. Christian Rudder has a book coming out in September that discusses data manipulation disguised as data analysis, statistics or observations of online activity. He was on NPR recently discussing this story and was beside himself with glee over hoodwinking people in the name of science. From a legal standpoint, why doesn’t this constitute fraud? His site charges people, it makes representation about scientific compatibility and success in future relationships, all to induce people to subscribe to the service. Assuming it is fraud, I would be copying that blog post and preserving it as Exhibit A in my motion for summary judgment as well as forming the basis of my class action lawsuit on behalf of all those similarly duped by this con artist.


  3. Everything I have input to OKCupid so far has been a BIG lie.

    So: Suck on that, Christian Rudder, you sucker with the undeserving first name (and last name that’s a fitting euphemism for “BIG Ass”). I hoodwinked you, ha-ha. So sue me. You’re going to pay. And pay and pay and pay.

    By the way, I am not lonely or desperate for companionship AT ALL.

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