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Flawed Online Dating Bill Being Pushed in New Jersey 192

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the bars-next-on-the-list-for-background-checks dept.
Billosaur writes "According to a report on Ars Technica, a committee of the New Jersey Assembly is trying to push an on-line dating bill even though it contains significant flaws. The Internet Dating Safety Act would require dating web sites that interact with customers in New Jersey to indicate whether they do criminal background checks and if people who fail such checks are still allowed to register with the site. 'The backers of the New Jersey Internet Dating Safety Act undoubtedly feel that the law provides at least a measure of protection despite its flaws. In this case, however, users of such sites are probably better off assuming that their personal safety remains a personal responsibility, rather than placing faith in a background check that has little chance of uncovering any information on a person attempting to hide it.'"
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Flawed Online Dating Bill Being Pushed in New Jersey

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  • by Asgard (60200) * <jhmartin-s-5f7bbb@toger.us> on Monday November 26, 2007 @04:47PM (#21483681) Homepage
    I recall a story a while ago on this same topic, except that a particular online dating site which did some form of background check was the primary backer -- they wanted all print and online personals sites to be required to display a warning if no background check was performed.
    • by cayenne8 (626475) on Monday November 26, 2007 @06:13PM (#21484807) Homepage Journal
      I don't get it...are they next doing to require background checks for people going to bars to try to pick people up or actually find someone to date? I hear some people try to meet other in coffee shops too (I'd not think that would be as good, as booze is a 'conversation lubrication', and coffee just makes one paranoid and nervous, but, I digress).

      I mean...what's the difference in where you meet and try to find people? What makes internet dating inherently more dangerous than dating in meatspace? Are we doing to be required to carry out background checks with us on our papers as well as our identifying information....oh wait...RealID....?

      Seriously, I don't see the difference....no matter where you try to go to interact with people, you have to have some discretion in who you trust and go out with...

      • I don't see a problem with it as long as it's something the customers are asking for and not something the government is enforcing on companies. Do we really need this as a law? If someone doesn't like the fact that the dating site they are on doesn't have a background check, then those people should exercise their right to go to another site.
        • by ttyRazor (20815)
          nobody has asked for it aside from the only site that does background checks; it's a brazen attempt by true.com to burden their competition with large disclaimers effectively saying "THIS PERSON MAY OR MAY NOT BE A CEREAL RAPIST"
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Baddas (243852)
      Yep, they're the ones behind all of these bills. Basically, their background checks are useless except to raise the bar to entry in the online dating market.
  • by Apple Acolyte (517892) on Monday November 26, 2007 @04:47PM (#21483695)
    Another piece of New Jersey legislation requires business owners to disclose to the public whether or not they have ties to organized crime.
    • by sm62704 (957197)
      Another piece of New Jersey legislation requires business owners to disclose to the public whether or not they have ties to organized crime

      That would be useless in Illinois, where businesses would automatically have to say "yes". Our last Governor is in prison... [wikipedia.org]

      -mcgrew
    • "Another piece of New Jersey legislation requires business owners to disclose to the public whether or not they have ties to organized crime."

      Can you get a business in NJ if you don't?
    • by mpe (36238)
      Another piece of New Jersey legislation requires business owners to disclose to the public whether or not they have ties to organized crime.

      Depending what the definition of "ties" happens to be just about any business will have some connection, just by virtue of doing business and especially if they pay any kind of taxes.
  • heh (Score:5, Informative)

    by rice_burners_suck (243660) on Monday November 26, 2007 @04:48PM (#21483713)
    1. Use common sense.
    2. The website should tell you to use common sense. (i.e., chat online before speaking on the phone; speak a lot before agreeing to meet; meet somewhere public the first few times; meet their friends and family and see if they look normal. remember if you marry someone you're marrying their family, and if their family is psycho, chances are they are psycho too, even if they behave normal for a while).
    3. The website should detail if background checks are done and if so, which ones.
    4. It doesn't require a state law to deal with the problem of background checks.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by WestCoastJTF (1192081)
      (i.e., chat online before speaking on the phone; speak a lot before agreeing to meet; meet somewhere public the first few times; meet their friends and family and see if they look normal. remember if you marry someone you're marrying their family, and if their family is psycho, chances are they are psycho too, even if they behave normal for a while).

      Is that the voice of experience I hear?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      All this is going to do is have dating sites pull out of NJ. On the drop down menu of "Where do you live?" NJ will no longer appear. Maybe a message saying "Sorry. You live in NJ. We don't have the money to deal with this. You're SOL." This isn't going to protect anyone.
      • by vishbar (862440)
        This will protect people who might have otherwise met and dated a person from NJ.
    • Re:heh (Score:5, Funny)

      by Froboz23 (690392) on Monday November 26, 2007 @06:20PM (#21484921)
      I don't see what all the fuss is about. This seems like a good idea.


      SLASHDOT DISCLAIMER: IN COMPLIANCE WITH NEW JERSEY PENAL CODE 15-1302, SLASHDOT HAS PERFORMED ALL REQUIRED CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECKS ON USER FROBOZ23, WHOSE LEGALLY REGISTERED NAME IS ENGELBERT HUMPERDINCK. IN 1996, THIS PERSON HAD NON-CONSENTING SEXUAL RELATIONS WITH AN AQUATIC MAMMAL, A CLASS 12 FELONY. OH, AND THERE WAS ALSO THAT J-WALKING TICKET BACK IN '92. FOR SHAME. IF YOU INSIST ON MEETING WITH THIS VILE, NASTY PERSON, WE RECOMMEND YOU MEET IN A PUBLIC PLACE. PRE-PLAN YOUR ESCAPE ROUTES, AND BRING A HIGH-CALIBER WEAPON, JUST IN CASE.
    • Re:heh (Score:4, Insightful)

      by hackstraw (262471) on Monday November 26, 2007 @07:17PM (#21485603)
      Use common sense.

      Common sense does not apply "online".

      Everything is different, and there needs to be new laws when something is "online".

      OK, enough with the sarcasm, but WTF is up with an online dating bill? Singles bars don't do background checks. Neither do the personals in the newspaper. I would assume that things like magazines that are dedicated to "alternate" lifestyles, swinging, wife-swapping, and every fetish you could imagine don't do background checks. Lots of people meet people at work and school, and most employers and schools don't do background checks.

      So, why is this so important when the "online" keyword is added?

      • by mpe (36238)
        Common sense does not apply "online".
        Everything is different, and there needs to be new laws when something is "online".
        OK, enough with the sarcasm, but WTF is up with an online dating bill?


        "hammer" meet "nail head" :)

        Singles bars don't do background checks. Neither do the personals in the newspaper. I would assume that things like magazines that are dedicated to "alternate" lifestyles, swinging, wife-swapping, and every fetish you could imagine don't do background checks.

        What about "dating agenci
    • by caluml (551744)

      meet their friends and family and see if they look normal
      Eh?! I don't want to inflict nutty women I meet on the internet on my friends and family!
  • How would one do a background check on an avatar? Or will Avatars simply now be discriminated against, and prohibited from joining social sites altogether?
    • How would one do a background check on an avatar?

      Ask him to bring you the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom?
    • How would one do a background check on an avatar? Or will Avatars simply now be discriminated against, and prohibited from joining social sites altogether?


      Poor Aang, that seems very unfair to him.

      Chris Mattern
  • by algorithmagic (1194567) on Monday November 26, 2007 @04:53PM (#21483781)
    I read a couple years back that True.com is pushing state legislatures to adopt such bills as a boost to their own business model (and a hindrance to their competitors). Anyone know if this is the case here?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by neoform (551705)
      They did, for two reasons, it was a publicity stunt to make them look like they were protecting their users more, but also to try to kill off smaller dating sites that didn't have the means to do such background checks on all its users.
    • The Virginia Legislature considered this a couple of years ago. The day that the bill was considered by the House Committeee on Science and Technology, a pair of lobbyists (from a pretty high-power firm, at that) spent the day taking the head of True.com around meeting legislators. During the day, they met with a pretty good chunk of the committee, and most of the Leadership from both parties.

      In the end though, the bill was very quickly, and very literally, laughed out of committee. I kind of felt bad for t
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 26, 2007 @04:53PM (#21483783)
    Because that's how dating works in real life!

    ... Nice to meet you, Martha, now may I see your papers?

    Everything seems to be in order here ... wait, wtf is this? A filing for a restraining order against you! WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN UP TO! THIS DATE IS OVER!
  • if->then does not imply then->if, or "not if"->"not then"

    ex:
    If user X has a bad criminal record, user Y won't trust user X

    does not imply
    If user X does NOT have a criminal record, user Y won't NOT trust user X

    the logic for the opposition is just as flawed as the logic of the argument. Add to that the fact that people who are wary now will probably remain wary even with the background check, it just makes things easier to increase the list of untrastables, this bill really amounts to telling a custom
    • by tverbeek (457094)
      "Because a false sense of security is better than no sense of security at all."
      • by ByOhTek (1181381)
        You didn't bother reading my post did you?

        I simply stated that there would be (at least) a minimal security improvement, and that many users wouldn't get a false sense of security (except those who wouldn't bother listening to a sense of insecurity anyway)
  • Ridiculous Law (Score:5, Insightful)

    by writerjosh (862522) * on Monday November 26, 2007 @04:53PM (#21483787) Homepage
    I think it's ridiculous that the Jersey gov is forcing their dating sites to do a mandatory background screening.

    1. The Article states that it's not even a true background check (it's a name check only -- so, it's essentially worthless anyway)
    2. Users should bare the responsibility of checking out their own dates, not the site

    If anything, the state should only require the dating sites to offer a full background screening service for a reasonable price. That way, the user can check out their dates, plus the dating site isn't forced to do a background check on everyone, plus the site can still make a profit which is what the site is there for in the first place.
    • Which is why, in all likelihood, this thing has no chance of surviving judicial scrutiny. But some congressman somewhere in Jersey can claim he's tough on sex offenders come the next election.
    • ... because from what I can gather, the law doesn't force dating sites to conduct background checks, just to indicate whether they conduct them or not. It's a big difference.
    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      Users should bare the responsibility of checking out their own dates, not the site

      Ignoring the Freudian typo, it seems amazing to me that anyone would think it was a good idea to attempt to spend quality time alone with a complete stranger: If you're in a public place, it's about as safe as any other activity. If there are no witnesses, or you're relying on the stranger's car to get to or from said public place, it's not. This is true of any first date, no matter how you met them. Early dates give you a ch

  • by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Monday November 26, 2007 @04:54PM (#21483795) Homepage Journal
    When are they going to criminalize it when women post pictures that are five years and 100 pounds out of date? That's the real danger of internet dating sites.
    • by PoliTech (998983) on Monday November 26, 2007 @04:58PM (#21483861) Homepage Journal
      What about the Gender challenged? I don't mind my date showing up larger than advertised, but when SHE turns out to be a HE ... well that's where I draw the line! /Unless he/she is really fine looking, then a little petting before the breakup may be in order.
    • by MikeFM (12491)
      So long as the pictures look good who cares? Enjoy looking. Besides, if you can put on 100lbs then you can also take off 100lbs. If you're around for more than a quickie then you can join the gym together.
  • by Joe the Lesser (533425) on Monday November 26, 2007 @04:55PM (#21483805) Homepage Journal
    I think you're cute. Background check me anytime and then maybe we'll get a cup of coffee.
  • What the hell (Score:3, Informative)

    by moogied (1175879) on Monday November 26, 2007 @04:55PM (#21483809)
    What the hell? Since when are we doing background checks on real people before we let them date? I am sick of this attempting to regulate the internet version of real life events. People go to match.com, true.com, iwantsomeactionfromanyone.com to find people. Its there fault if they agree to then meet them at the corner of 235th avenue and No-one-goes-here-ever road.
    • Its there fault if they agree to then meet them at the corner of 235th avenue and No-one-goes-here-ever road.
      Its there fault if they agree to then meet them at the corner of 235th avenue and No-one-gets-away-from-here road.

      There, fixed it for you. :)

    • by DavidD_CA (750156)
      But the Shady Cafe has great scones, and is right next door to the People Get Knifed Here Theatre. What better place to take a first date?
  • psychotic murderous psychopaths on death row with multiple female admirers sending them their panties in the mail and even a bride or two. and aren't women supposed to like the "bad" type?

    maybe new jersey (teh state that gives us the sopranos, irony) has the wrong idea. maybe the real issue here is the nugget of a new online dating business: a place for women to meet and date proven criminals, not avoid them
    • by UbuntuDupe (970646) * on Monday November 26, 2007 @05:24PM (#21484171) Journal
      Heh, that was my reaction too: "Hold on -- are we flagging criminal convictions so that women can AVOID them, or so they can DATE them?"

      Distance from North Pole to Equator along earth's surface: ~10,000 km.
      Distance from Earth to Sun: 150 million km.
      Distance from Sun to nearest other star: 42 trillion km.
      Distance from what women say they want in a man, to what they really want: farther still.
    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      psychotic murderous psychopaths on death row with multiple female admirers sending them their panties in the mail and even a bride or two
      All next week, on Town Talk.
    • psychotic murderous psychopaths on death row with multiple female admirers sending them their panties in the mail
      You know, that sounds a lot like cruel and unusual punishment. 'Hey, loads of women want to have sex with you, and we're going to execute you before any of them get the chance.'
  • than placing faith in a background check that has little chance of uncovering any information on a person attempting to hide it.'

    Excuse me but last time I checked it was farely easy to uncover if somebody has beem convicted of a Felony. Now, I'm not for this law. I think the websites should enforce the policy themselves without needless legislation. Also in the end the people who use the service have to take responsibility. However to make statements that background checks are useless without any facts is

    • Excuse me but last time I checked it was farely easy to uncover if somebody has beem convicted of a Felony.

      You're missing the point. It is fairly easy to tell if someone is convicted of a felony if you know their real name because you saw their ID. None of these dating sites are asking for ID, so they only show if the name a person put into their profile is the same name as a person with a felony conviction. Most actual criminals who know the site does such a check, will just use a different name. On the other hand, people who just happen to have the same name as a criminal, will probably have trouble using da

      • by Bryansix (761547)
        You know a lot of companies sign people up over the Internet. This includes credit cards, stock brokers, etc. They have ways of verifying identity. I'm not saying people should be "required" to submit to a check especially one required by law. I'm just saying that people who do submit probably are not criminals.
        • They have ways of verifying identity.

          There are two ways I know, existing credit card numbers and SSNs. Since most dating sites are free, people generally don't provide either and don't want to. Some states have laws that make it illegal to require a SSN in order to identify a person. For the most part, these sites just try to match the name and location with lists of felons, and using a fake name, makes the check fail, as noted by people who tested MySpace's check for felony convictions. It results in false positives and is trivial to bypass

  • by d3xt3r (527989) on Monday November 26, 2007 @04:58PM (#21483853)

    Seriously, a lot of hook-ups, meeting new people for dating, etc. happen at bars, not online. This is one of those half-baked ideas by some clueless legislators who seem to think the Internet is a scarier place than a bar.

    Requiring background checks for online dating is not a realistic safeguard. People who have something to hide will figure out how to hide it, face-to-face or on the Internet. If anything, this will cause clueless daters to fall into a false sense of security by assuring them that this safety net exists when it's merely a mirage.

    • by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday November 26, 2007 @06:21PM (#21484941) Journal

      Seriously, a lot of hook-ups, meeting new people for dating, etc. happen at bars, not online.
      The 90s called, they want their method-of-meeting-people back[1]

      Seriously, have you any idea of how few people in a relationship met in bars compared to other means? Or how ubiquitous online dating services have become? This is particularly true for age ranges > 30.

      Your point stands about a false sense of security. You'd think that maybe someone smart enough to go online to a dating site would be smart enough to do their own background check; the problem is that there is no assurance that the person they are checking on is actually who they say they are; the dating sites act as a vetting service -- this is what potential daters are paying for.

      That said, I think the problem is that people too stupid to do their own background checks actually increase their chance of reproducing through these dating sites. This means that, from an evolutionary standpoint, they are getting some help in propagating their genes. I would like my legislator to propose legislation to ban all people too stupid to perform their own background checks from using dating sites. For the good of the species, please.

      Won't someone think of the genome?

      [1] Yes, I know, the 90s called, and they want their "The 80s called and want their $FOO back" joke back.
      • by butlerdi (705651)

        That said, I think the problem is that people too stupid to do their own background checks actually increase their chance of reproducing through these dating sites.

        Do you credit check all of your dates as well? This seem really fucking stupid. Why on earth would it matter to you. Do you really want to know everything about someone prior to even meeting them? Remember, a very large percentage of US citizens have criminal records and or previous messed up credit histories. Must be why so many here on /. have no dates, wives et al.

        • Well, I think my wife would be upset if I dated at all...

          But my single friends who are dating typically depend on other things to ensure their date is not a big risk. Like only dating people recommended to them by people they trust, or dating people from work for whom they already have a sense of what kind of person they are. Sure, it's not foolproof, but there is SOME kind of vetting process.

          Meeting an absolute stranger on the internet and then dating them in person carries a lot of risks that can be m
          • by butlerdi (705651)
            I suppose that I have never really thought of risk analysis for dating, also gave never dated by internet so perhaps it is not so far fetched for the US/Internet dating. Just seems strange and somewhat clinical/cynical. But hell, like the Clash said "This is the Modern world"
  • true.com (Score:5, Informative)

    by saterdaies (842986) on Monday November 26, 2007 @04:58PM (#21483855)
    This is simply true.com trying to legislate their business model. They pay a lot for background checks on their members and the public seems to think these background checks aren't important. By legislating this, they're hoping to a) force other companies to take on a huge financial burden or b) force other companies to look shady by having a disclaimer "warning: people on this site might be axe murders". What they should really be requiring is for everyone to do a background check on anyone they ever interact with. That clerk at the coffee shop? Who knows what s/he might be hiding!
  • Who cares!? (Score:2, Insightful)

    Seriously, the more we alienate excons the more crime they will commit. THe only situation that requires notification are sex offenders. People need to start taking care of themselves. Meet a person, go slow, and figure them out.
    • Even requiring notification of sex offenders I'd disagree with -- it's pathetically easy to get yourself on a sex offender list. Example: walking a few steps off of the Interstate and urinating can, if the cop and judge are in bad moods, get you on such a list because you've committed the 'crime' of indecent exposure.

      Perhaps if this issue was addressed (along with other pointless ones such as borderline cases of statutory rape being considered a sex crime), then I could agree with notifying of sex offend

    • by Kazrath (822492)
      Your logic confuses me.

      It apparently is better to kill a person then to be a "Peep 'n' Tom" in your book. As a murder is not subject to being a registered murder and publicly ostracized. This "sex" offender BS really needs to have some granularity or they need to make all Felony+ charges add you to a list.

  • by Ngarrang (1023425) on Monday November 26, 2007 @05:07PM (#21483943) Journal
    A person goes to jail as punishment. Once out, that punishment should not continue, with society treating the person as a pariah. That leads to recidivism. Not all crimes make that person a danger to be avoided. There are some crimes, yes, that if the person committed them, might make you pause to trust them in that situation again. But, let us not treat the background check as a magic bullet.
    • If I am going to potentially get in a relationship with someone, I have a right to know about their criminal background and make a decision for myself if that's ok. You are in no place to tell me that their background isn't my business, if the seek a relationship with me, they make it my business. Maybe I decide I don't care enough to check, maybe I do check and what I find doesn't concern me. However it's my choice to make.

      This is stupid because there's no reason why dating sites should have to take the bu
    • by Bios_Hakr (68586)
      People generally have a bit of trust in other people. If someone has committed a crime, then they have given people a reason to stop trusting them.

      It sucks, but it's all about keeping yourself safe. Don't want to be a pariah? Then don't be a criminal.

      Of course, the level of mistrust is based on the crime. I wouldn't let a convicted rapist date my daughter. I wouldn't let a convicted child molester babysit. I wouldn't let hire a CFO after he was convicted of embezzlement.

      Does it matter to me that "they
    • So, what were you in for?
  • The Internet Dating Safety Act would require dating web sites that interact with customers in New Jersey to indicate whether they do criminal background checks and if people who fail such checks are still allowed to register with the site.

    That is patently unenforceable. If it was, any state could simply pass a law criminalizing websites and then start collecting money. They can require sites operated in New Jersey to abide by these laws and maybe even residents of New Jersey who operate such sites (but I

  • Just because you're a dog molesting cannibal doesn't mean you're a bad date.
  • by LM741N (258038) on Monday November 26, 2007 @05:53PM (#21484577)
    Criminal background checks are often wrong if the person has had his case dismissed or expunged. There are so many data brokers who collect this information that its hard to change it. They pick up the initial arrest but then neglect to pick up whether the person had his case thrown out or expunged. Thats especially the case for DUII where people go through diversion and then have their record expunged. But they are never able to escape that history of DUII.
  • It's no good trying to hide such notification in the fine print at the bottom--all such information must be posted in bold, capital letters with a minimum font size of 12.

    HTML tags are advisory, and rendering them in any particular way, is totally at the browser's discretion. Looks like online dating sites aren't going to be allowed to be part of the web. ;-)

    What goes through a lawmaker's mind, when he writes about typography? Is it possible to do that, and still believe that you're helping someone?

  • Billosaur:

    In this case, however, users of such sites are probably better off assuming that their personal safety remains a personal responsibility, rather than placing faith in a background check that has little chance of uncovering any information on a person attempting to hide it.'"

    You're kidding me, right? The background check, conducted by some presumably reliable company, with corporate resources behind it, is unlikely to uncover any information on the potential date... but I'm going to do better my

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      You're kidding me, right? The background check, conducted by some presumably reliable company, with corporate resources behind it, is unlikely to uncover any information on the potential date... but I'm going to do better myself by using "personal responsibility"?

      Okay, so assume you're running a corporation and you want your users to feel safe and use your site. What is more cost effective real methods, or empty marketing? Now as your business people go to your Web page and input personal information. You have no way of checking if the information they enter, even their name is correct. What kind of background check do you think you can perform that will be effective? You don't even know the person's real name if they decide to just make up an alias.

      Okay now you

    • by Asgard (60200) *
      Reliable in that they reliably take the websites money, and in return give them the ability to advertise 'background checks'. Their responsibility is to the website, not you.
    • Nice straw man disassembly, but I do believe the original author was thinking "personal responsibility" as in it's up to you whether or not you want to do a background check on someone, and not up to the State.
  • If this bill passes, the most likely effect will be that dating sites will follow the path of easiest compliance, and simply prohibit any and all users from New Jersey.

    Where can I contribute?
  • It's just one more lie to create an account.

    Are you 18 or over? > yes
    Are you currently living in New Jersey? > no
  • when true.com was trying to codify their business model in Michigan law [themorningsun.com], not New Jersey.
  • I won't need to filter all requests to chat from NJ freaks then. The State will do it for me.
  • backwards (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kurtis25 (909650) on Monday November 26, 2007 @08:42PM (#21486411)
    When I signed up for the site wouldn't I have to consent to a background check, which would give me a good clue as to whether there is a background check or not, right?
  • As with so many other state attempts to legislate what citizens can and can't do on the Internet, this one looks like it violates the Dormant Commerce Clause [wikipedia.org]. NJ is attempting to control what happens in NJ, but because this is the Internet, it affects online businesses that are operating in other states. Should an online dating outfit based in California or New York be forced to comply with NJ law? No.

  • or balance the budget. We New Jerseyites ...I mean New Jersians,,, Augh! ...residents of New Jersey are up to our neck in state debt. Our taxes our out of this world, and it costs an arm and a leg living here. We are in serious financial trouble and need to cut our state debt in half, but that's not fun. It means charging more taxes for less services and our governor won't let us do some cheap accounting trick this time around. No matter what you do, someone is going to get pissed.

    Better off hyping legislat
  • I made the mistake of moving here a couple of years ago. I'm ready to move out. The people here are a bunch of tools. They readily and happily bend over for authority.

Fools ignore complexity. Pragmatists suffer it. Some can avoid it. Geniuses remove it. -- Perlis's Programming Proverb #58, SIGPLAN Notices, Sept. 1982

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