I know this may come as a shock, but: The Internet is a fakers paradise. Facebook estimates that roughly 7 percent of accounts – some 76 million – are phony. Twitter guesses 5 percent of its 200-million+ active users are bogus. (I’d lay money that both numbers are actually much higher.)
Of course, if you are one of the thousands hundreds 17 regular readers of TY4NS, you’d know that already. I’ve spent a fair amount of time over the last three years chronicling bots, sockpuppets, and other assorted fakers on Facebook, Twitter, and the Web in general.
But I may not have to do that much longer, thanks to a clever startup named BeehiveID, which promises to ferret out frauds using the magic of software algorithms.
Hive got a feeling
BeehiveID works by analyzing your social media accounts and assigning you a score, much like a credit score. The higher the number, the more likely you are a genuine person. You can look up your own score by visiting Beehive’s site and allowing it to connect to your Facebook account.
When I did it, I got the maximum score of 850. Turns out I’m a real boy after all. Who knew?
Beehive uses a number of techniques – including facial recognition and writing analysis – to parse thousands of data points about each person. Bots act differently online than real people, CEO Mary Haskett explained to me in a phone interview. Real people tend to have clusters of friends from both genders who live in the same town or work at the same place; fake accounts don’t. Real people tend to be more active than fakes and to write status updates and tweets in a consistent way. Real accounts also tend to produce a lot more data than bogus ones.
This week BeehiveID will announce its first customer, a dating service called TangoWire that pulls profiles from more than 50 other online dating communities. When you create a profile on TangoWire, you have the option of having your account “verified.” You can choose to use Beehive, which will analyze your Facebook account to determine if you’re real, or you can submit a photo showing you holding up a piece of paper with your handwritten account number on it.
Having your account verified is totally optional, says Haskett, but people with verified accounts tend to get more action and attention – so there’s a built-in incentive.