Social Media identity problems
It’s time for social media and dating apps to face the music and curb fraud, deception and disinformation on their platforms once and for all.
In the beginning, social media and dating apps represented small corners of the internet with just a handful of users. Today, Facebook and Twitter are so big they influence elections, make or break vaccine campaigns, and move markets.
Dating apps like Tinder and Bumble are not far behind, with millions upon millions of people looking to their services to meet their “forever” mate.
But the fun and games are over now. You’ve chosen profit over trust and safety. You have created a gateway for identity theft and online fraud.
Today we all have a friend who’s been “catfished” on Bumble or Tinder; we all have family members who’ve been victimized by online Twitter and Facebook scams. Every day, we hear of new cases where malicious actors steal identities — or create fake new ones — to commit fraud, spread misinformation for political and commercial gain, or promote hate speech.
In most industries, users with fake identities really only impact the business. But when trust is broken on dating and social platforms, it harms users and society at large. And the financial, psychological — and sometimes physical — impact on a person is real.
So who’s accountable for stopping or combating this rise in fraud? Clearly, not the platforms themselves. Although some claim to be taking action.
Catfishing is serious business
It’s not difficult to imagine this scenario: You meet someone online and start a conversation. The person says the right things, asks the right questions. The relationship starts to feel “real” and you begin to sense kinship. Before you know it, it escalates; all your guards are down and you become impervious to red flags. You go as far as calling it, love.
You and your new significant other make plans to finally meet in person. They claim they don’t have money for the trip. You trustingly and lovingly send the money, only for this person to ghost shortly after.
While some catfishing incidents resolve on their own with minimal harm inflicted, others — like the example above — can lead to financial extortion and criminal activity. Reported losses to romance scams reached a record $304 million in 2020, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
On social networks, identity verification can be a double-edged sword
Romance scams aren’t specific to dating apps; about one-third actually begin on social media. But there are many other reasons to verify identity on social networks. Consumers might want to know if they are engaging with the real Oprah Winfrey or Ariana Grande or some parody account; Winfrey and Grande probably also want that distinction to be apparent.
Today, Facebook and Twitter offer a “verification” review process that awards authentic accounts with a blue checkmark. But this is far from foolproof. Twitter recently paused its “verification” program because it incorrectly verified a number of fake accounts.
Facebook has done more. The social network has long imposed identity verification conditionally, for example, if a user is locked out of their account. They also base identity requirements on content posted, where certain behaviors, words, and images trigger a block of the poster, pending verification and human review.
The identity arms race
When bad actors create fake identities on dating apps and social media to defraud and harm others, it damages public trust and undoubtedly impacts revenue for these platforms. Social media platforms wrestle daily to reconcile their business objectives of maximizing usage with protecting user privacy — or face increased regulation and loss of consumer trust.
It’s vital to protect identities from thieves and hackers who would misuse them. Imagine a fake Twitter or Facebook account claiming to be you, spreading hate statements. Without a way to disprove your involvement, you might lose your job or worse.
Social Media identity problems