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Gay dating app is introducing an AI verification process to clamp down on catfishing

Josh Milton October 30, 2019
A gay dating app is launching an AI-operated verification system. (Dan Porges/Getty Images)

A gay dating app is launching an AI-operated verification system. (Dan Porges/Getty Images)

Deep down, we’re all a little scared when we go to meet someone on a dating app.

You’ve spoken to them for a few days, pinned down a spot that’s equidistant from your apartments, but the question remains: Are they really genuine?

Is the person in the profile really the person I’m about to meet?

In an effort to trammel deceiving users, gay dating app Hornet is launching a ‘verified’ function to identify authentic members.

How will Hornet verification work?

The machine learning-based verification system swaps away IDs for algorithms.

In other words, rather than moderators behind desks squinting at user-submitted IDs, the app will instead examine user-activity to establish if the person is trust-worthy and genuine.

This will be done, for example, by analysing “authentic” interactions. However, this will not apply to the content of private messages.

This is all in an effort to curb so-called catfishing profiles, which typically use stolen pictures to tempt other users to chat with them.

An overwhelming amount of queer people now connect with the rest of the community via mobile phone apps, such as Hornet. (James Sheppard/Future via Getty Images)
An overwhelming amount of queer people now connect with the rest of the community via mobile phone apps, such as Hornet. (James Sheppard/Future via Getty Images)

At their best, catfish might simply organise a meet-up but never turn up.

At their worse, the interactions can end in fraud or even psychological and physical harm.

Hornet, which has 25 million annual users globally, will now introduce profile-based verification.

“Today, social networks need to give new answers to growing privacy concerns and increasing levels of abuse through catfish, imposters and manipulators,” said Christof Wittig, founder and CEO of Hornet.

“We feel that a community-based verification system, powered by cutting-edge technology, works best for the gay community.”

Hornet administrators have stressed that users cannot opt-out of the system, according to the BBC.

“People in some countries don’t put a face picture up because it’s so dangerous, but they can still be verified by the system,” Wittig told the BBC.

‘Not everyone wants to or even should be identified,’ warn competitor apps. 

While patches of the globe find relief in relaxed attitudes and increased legislative protections, not all queer people can be open enough.

Perhaps, as Scruff chief executive Eric Silverberg points out, some users are not open enough to pass as “verified”.

Uganda is one of around 70 countries where being gay is punishable by imprisonment. (ISAAC KASAMANI/AFP via Getty Images)
Uganda is one of around 70 countries where being gay is punishable by imprisonment. (ISAAC KASAMANI/AFP via Getty Images)

“Not everyone wants to or even should be identified,” he told BBC, “people often create new, repeated or anonymous profiles, for many valid reasons.

“Once you start verifying some, you create a kind of hierarchy on your platform that could lead to unintended consequences for people who are not out of the closet.”

Reduced to criminals, countless queer people are pressed with prosecution charges around the planet simply for being who they are.

The anonymity of apps such as Hornet or Grindr provide refuge for queer people, whether to explore the identity without labelling themselves or to network with other LGBT+ people in their neighbourhood.

More: apps, catfishing, Grindr, Hornet, scruff

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