Catfishing has always been an issue for online daters (it’s also been responsible for some of the great moments of TV, IMO), but with the availability of AI tools on the rise, there’s now a new problem for singletons to worry about; botfishing.
Tools that generate dating profile text and even responses to messages have already started popping up – and while there’s nothing necessarily wrong with getting a little help with your dating profile – this does raise some questions about honesty and safety. Particularly as some men have already started to use AI tools to garner as many matches with women as possible.
But what if there isn’t a person behind the profile at all? “my [sic] friend has been noticing something weird on Hinge: men who write “I like everything about culture” in their bios.” tweeted Vox’s senior correspondent Rebecca Jennings this week. “what is this? are they bots? is it AI? why are they all named Andy????? please someone tell us what is Going On?” she continued.
Jennings pointed out that while the profiles all seemed to belong to different men, each had responded to the prompt ‘A random fact I love is’ with the nonsensical answer “I love everything about culture”. Urm, okay dude.
“follow up q: if they are indeed bots, what is the process of making them? who is behind it and what are they possibly getting out of this?!” asked Jennings in a second tweet. “my friend sometimes tries talking to them but they stop responding like immediately so if its for scamming, seems like theyre bad at it???”
So-called romance scams have been on the rise across online dating sites and apps. Research from Barclays, which looked at census data from 2,000 consumers, found that total losses from romance scams had increased by 60%.
The study also suggested that ‘despite those aged 51-60 accounting for 35% of all money lost to romance scammers, 21-30 year olds are in fact twice as likely to fall victim.’
Jennings’ tweet quickly went viral, with people supplying their own theories and experiences about bots on dating apps.
“Ive noticed this for about a year now! Even matched with one to test my theory. They HAVE to be bots.” said one Twitter user. “It has to be scammer or bot activity (or both). This happened in my area last year except they were all 31 year old entrepreneurs who *just* moved to Philly and were interested in crypto” said another.
Others pointed out that these bots might not be such a new thing – it’s just that historically, bots and scammers have targeted men more than women.
“Women learning about dating bots for the first time” replied one user.
So, how can you tell if a dating profile is a real person or if you’ve accidentally matched with a bot?
Check the photos
“Generative AI systems are very good at generating fake photos – it was one of the very first things they were trained to do. This means it is not always easy to spot a fake,” Dr Peter J Bentley, Professor of Computer Science at UCL explains to Cosmopolitan UK. “If you look really really closely you can sometimes see things that do not quite make sense: glasses with arms that seem to go through an ear, clothes that somehow blend together unnaturally, hands with the wrong number of fingers.”
Other indicators include inconsistencies in the background, like clouds only appearing over one shoulder but not the other. “You’re looking for things that don’t make sense and might even be impossible, because the AI doesn’t really understand our world,” says Dr Bentley.
Verify the profile or messages
If you think someone’s profile or messages look suss, you can run text through tools that analyse whether they were AI generated. These tools tend to work better with longer te text, so short profiles and one-sentence messages might be tricky to analyse – but do you really want to be responding to a boring texter anyway?
“If you’re not sure, interact with them and ask for a video call – without a blurred background and filters!” advises Dr Bentley.
Running the phrase “I like everything about culture” through one of the AI text verifiers Dr Bently suggests using proffers a score of 39% for ‘human-generated content’.
Overall, Dr Bentley says AI dating tools are ‘a double edged sword’ when it comes to dating. “It’s powerful enough that it could match us together better than ever before, making use of unparalleled data to ensure compatibility.”
But, AI generative tools could also help ‘nefarious actors’ use it to generate ‘unlimited numbers of realistic-seeming profile images and text’ in order to match with victims and lure them into giving them money, personal information ‘or worse’, he says.
This doesn’t mean that everyone you match with is a bot or that you should quit online dating altogether (unless you want to). Being aware of suspicious looking profiles, not giving money or personal information to anyone you haven’t met in person, and asking to video call with anyone you’re talking to can all help you stay safe from scammers and bots.
If in doubt, block and move on!
Hinge was contacted for comment.
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