New generative artificial intelligence tools like Stable Diffusion and ChatGPT can create stunning headshots, write flawless prose — even imitate someone’s voice.
Basically, a catfisher’s dream. In other words, these tools enable a user to create a false online persona that in some cases can be used for financial gain.
Catfishing and other online romance scams have become an increasing problem, especially on dating apps.
Tinder, one of the most popular dating apps in the U.S., has stepped up its efforts to combat these scams in recent years, with features like a new video verification system to authenticate users’ identities.
Marketplace’s Meghan McCarty Carino spoke with Rory Kozoll, Tinder’s senior vice president of product integrity, about the company’s efforts to fight scams, strengthen trust and potentially deploy AI tools in support of Tinder’s and its users’ goals.
“We’re definitely looking into how we can use this technology to help our members build, make and foster real-life connections,” he said.
The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.
Rory Kozoll: It is something that we’re obviously working on and trying to look into how this is showing up on the platform. But I don’t think it’s a new threat. This technology is showing up — if it shows up at all, and it already does in one form or another — as really just another way of people trying to catfish. And to the extent that we have the tools and the ability to thwart that, we’re going to continue to deploy those same tools. And if we have to improve them to keep up with the bad guys, we will do that. We’re funded to do so.
Meghan McCarty Carino: Tinder has had something called photo verification for some time. It allows users to sort of prove that they are who they say they are. Now, you’ve added a new level, video verification, to that. How does it work?
Kozoll: Yeah, so the original photo verification feature was based on some static poses that people would do. And then we would do some comparison, and we built our own automation on that. It had a few flaws. First of all, and probably most critically, was that it wasn’t actually as accessible as we wanted it to be. You know, we learned pretty quickly that there are some folks who are not able to do every pose or posture, and we had to come up with workarounds to make sure that people with certain physical inabilities were not blocked from being able to get verified. Those workarounds weren’t really ideal, and we don’t like the idea that somebody would have to go through a different process. Another thing that video verification does is it gives us a much stronger 3D face map. And we’re able to do that with a video. There’s a function where it kind of zooms in and zooms out and it’s able to build a more realistic model of the face, which means that it’s a lot harder for somebody to spoof that there’s a live human being there.
McCarty Carino: I guess outside of scams, have you seen or heard of any novel ways people are using AI in their Tinder profiles?
Kozoll: We’ve heard stories of people using certain products to help them write their bios, for example. And to be perfectly honest with you, I’m not sure that people using technology to improve their writing skills or their photography skills is particularly new. I think what we’re really seeing is people worried about how good this stuff is, but not necessarily any better than having a really pithy friend that you can turn to to help you write a clever bio. You know, we’re always on the lookout for anything that looks like it might be eroding the authenticity of their profiles. We don’t want people misrepresenting who they are. But we also want to be clear that technology is going to evolve. These tools are coming along, and just like Photoshop and any number of products before them, they, they give people new ways to express themselves. And those things are also valuable for helping our members be successful. I would hate to think that a tool that could be used for powerful new ways of creative self-expression to not be made available when you’re trying to figure out whether or not this is somebody that you might want to go out on a date with or build a life with.
McCarty Carino: We are seeing, you know, generative AI getting incorporated into a lot of different platforms and apps, you know, companies rushing to kind of add these features right now. Is Tinder looking at ways to incorporate this kind of technology?
Kozoll: We’re definitely looking into how we can use this technology to help our members build, make and foster real-life connections. You know, for us, it’s all about that, that human connection. That’s what people are coming to these platforms for. They’re looking to meet somebody and hopefully meet that person in real life. And to the extent that these tools can be effective and make them more successful in doing that, we’ll definitely be exploring those opportunities wherever they come.
McCarty Carino: Yeah, we’ve seen, you know, companies sort of having these features, profile-writing prompts, virtual AI avatars. What kinds of uses do you think are the most exciting?
Kozoll: You know, I think anything that helps people really express themselves in a way that maybe they couldn’t have done on their own or wouldn’t have done on their own because they just wouldn’t have thought of it is really exciting. Honestly, you know, to the extent that these tools can help unlock people’s undiscovered creativity or can help them brainstorm better ways of communicating with people they’re interested in, you know, as long as it doesn’t go too far afield of who they are authentically, which wouldn’t serve them anyway. I mean, the vast majority of our members are here for all the reasons that everybody else is here for. [We’re] helping our members understand, like, it’s not, it’s not going to help you to pretend to be somebody you’re not. When you meet that person in real life, they’re going to see that and see through that pretty quickly. This is really about how do we help you to show up better on the internet, which is actually not everybody’s skill. You know, not everybody is a social media maven, not everybody knows how to market themselves. And so to the extent that these tools can be, you know, more like your best friend talking about you than you talking about yourself, maybe that’s also valuable too.
McCarty Carino: We have heard criticisms, you know, of dating apps in general, that kind of the, the gamification of dating in these apps can become a barrier to the type of long-term relationships that a lot of users say that they’re looking for. I mean, how do you think about kind of the tension of creating an attractive user experience with that objective of what the service does?
Kozoll: You know, we never think in terms of gamification, or how do we help people use the app more. That’s never really the goal. For us, the goal is always about what’s going to get the person what they’re looking for, and how do we help them get there as efficiently and effectively as possible? Obviously, getting a lot of what you’re not looking for fast isn’t helpful, and not getting any of what you’re looking for, or it taking a very long time to find what you’re looking for, also isn’t helpful. And so for us, it’s really about what are the behaviors that we need to help encourage people to do that will make them more successful? I can tell you that everybody at the company is thinking about how do we help people have a great experience and, you know, walk away from having used Tinder feeling like it was worth their time, if they spent money it was worth their money, and that they found what they were looking for.
Related links: More insight from Meghan McCarty Carino
On that issue of “gamifying” dating apps like Tinder, we spoke with Sangeeta Singh-Kurtz earlier this year. She’s the co-host of the Vox and New York magazine podcast “Land of the Giants.”
The recent season examined how these platforms become something of an addictive “romantic roulette,” which causes problems for some users.
Tinder may be taking a measured approach to potentially integrating generative AI into its platform, but others are going big on the idea.
Snack, a dating app aimed at Gen Z, recently announced that users could create AI-trained avatars to go on sort of virtual reconnaissance dates with other users’ AI avatars and then report back if they think it’s a good match.
So, something like a “I’ll have my AI avatar call your AI avatar” situation?
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