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Possible Repercussions of Hornet’s New User Verification Badge

Hornet trying to stop people pretending to be someone they're not. An end to the Catfish?

Fake profiles pop up a lot on gay dating and hookup apps. People using others’ pics to lure others into, at the shallow end of the pool ‘send nudes’, and at the other, falsely lure people into potentially dangerous meetings.

In an effort to fight this, Hornet are reportedly updating their service to enable user verification ‘badges’ via algorithmic assessment. Prior to this, relative newcomer Taimi was a leader here with their manual moderator assessments and verification via picture/email/Facebook. Hornet’s move being based on user behaviour and ignoring pictures is a stronger move. As Scruff Chief Exec Eric Silverberg has said, ‘Not everyone wants, or even should be identified.’

Some exploring their sexuality may not be ready to be ‘out’ in a way that others may see - I myself had a blank profile to talk and ask advice from people when I was first ‘curious’. In other instances, for work, social or legal reasons it may not be safe for people to have to have visible pictures. With Grindr having a reported breach impacting millions of users data in 2018, the idea of creating lists where people can be identified and linked photographically could have disastrous consequences.

These badges could potentially lead to more mistrust. If the norm becomes people having a badge, anyone without one could be seen as dodgy. This may happen a little, however the prevalence and seeming success of faceless profiles on apps at the moment suggests this is unlikely. If so though, with verification based on behaviour it could take longer to earn if people are more wary of the unbadged. New users simply won’t have had the interactions to get the OK from the AI.

Another benefit of verification is that people are less likely to have their profiles or pictures used by others without their permission. I’m no looker, but I’ve had more than 10 people message me on social media stating that they’ve been contacted by people posing as me, seeking pictures off of them. Hornet’s machine learning system not taking into account pictures it’ll be interesting to see how they seek to combat this. The commonly seen actors and porn star pics that frequently pop up would be flagged by Taimi, however this could be a way that Hornet Chief Exec Christof Wittig admits that those who ‘put...super extra effort in’ could bypass their system.

How this changes things from a material perspective we shall have to wait and see. Their intentions of improving authenticity and safety whilst being mindful of necessary anonymity are admirable. In the ever competitive space of gay dating/hookup apps it will be interesting to see how others respond as pressure for security continues to increase. For now, it’s over to the machines to prevent your d*ck pic ending up in the wrong hands.

Love, The Age Gap Guys


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