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Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Why are gay apps struggling to stop catfish?

In an attempt to tackle fake profiles and scammers, a popular gay dating app plans to offer a sort of "verified" badge to identify authentic members. Hornet will be the first of the leading gay social networks to allow people to earn a badge of authenticity. The goal is to give users more confidence to talk to a real person. But instead of the moderators controlling the ID, the app will use the algorithms to decide who gets a badge. So can machine learning solve problems that persist in dating apps? Anyone who has used a gay dating app will be familiar with the fakes. Messages come from incredibly beautiful strangers, often looking for intimate photos or sexy chats. These so-called catfish profiles use images stolen from famous social media stars or adult film actors. They attract people into a conversation, sometimes trying to organize dates for which they never show up. In the most serious cases they try to defraud, blackmail or harm their victims. So why don't gay dating apps offer a "verified" profile badge, like on Instagram or Twitter? It's not that easy. "Not everyone wants or even should be identified," said Eric Silverberg, managing director of the Scruff dating app, which competes with Hornet in the app stores. People often create new, repeated or anonymous profiles, for many valid reasons, "he told the BBC. "Once you start checking on some of them, you create a sort of hierarchy on your platform that could lead to unintended consequences for people who are not out of the closet." Private life More than 70 countries around the world have laws against people LGBT. Identity checks would create a list of "verified LGBT persons" that could be used by those who want to hurt, including governments. They would also raise barriers for those who explore their sexuality. If most users choose to check their profiles, newcomers may find fewer people talking to them if they haven't passed the verification process. Hornet says its system does not provide ID control. On the contrary, the algorithms will evaluate how people behave in the app over time. Profiles deemed authentic will show a "Hornet badge" as an indicator of reliability. The company said it would not reveal exactly how the algorithm works because it could help the catfish figure out how to fool the system. But Hornet CEO Christof Wittig told the BBC: "We look at people and how they gain trust as they interact with the community. It requires that people be authentic and interact ". Analysis Hornet combines the social elements of app like Instagram with the app-like appearance of apps like Grindr. The "verification" system will analyze how people use these features, to assess whether the activity is consistent with real users. Wittig stressed that the algorithm would not examine the content of private messages. And since many people in countries with anti-LGBT laws do not use a selfie as a profile picture, the system does not even provide for the analysis of images of profile photos.  Of course, fake profiles can be very convincing: they are carefully made to deceive. Could a catfish profile earn a "Hornet badge" and add a sign of authenticity to its fake profile? "In theory, yes," Wittig said. "There will always be that person who will do this extra super effort, and there will always be some. "But with this system, the amount of work compared to the probability of reward changes. We are making a fake profile very expensive. They can no longer do it on a large scale. "And even then, once you know someone is a catfish, their model is better understood. Machine learning has much more data to really understand how catfish behave. "What about members who do not want a" Hornet badge "because they are worried about being exposed for using an LGBT app? Wittig said that it would not be possible to give up the system but that members will still be able to be discreet about their identity. "People in some countries don't stage an image because it's so dangerous, but they can still be verified by the system," Wittig told the BBC. Rival apps The BBC has invited rival apps Grindr and Scruff to share their views on user verification methods. Scruff told the BBC: "The biggest question is why bad actors continue to proliferate on some platforms and the answer always comes to one thing: leadership". "We have always given priority to moderation and community support, because we are building an app that we ourselves use and share with our friends and loved ones. When people abuse our platform, we react quickly and decisively. "We have spent years developing advanced technologies to block spammers, catfishers and other bad actors." Grindr has yet to respond.

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