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Identity verification for social media website

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Spook Louw
Spook Louw Jun 21, 2021
This session is related to this idea for a new biographical social media site.

At the moment, there are two predominant ways to verify connections on social media sites. Platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn require users to request and approve connections with other users. This method ensures that the link between the two users is consensual. Other platforms like Instagram and Twitter allow users to follow any other user on the platform. While you are allowed to block certain people from following you, ordinarily they do not need your consent to follow you at first. This method allows for people to have more connections and reach a bigger audience as each connection doesn't have to be verified by both parties.

For the abovementioned biographical social media site, there is an added element to connections though. Instead of simply being a list of your friends/followers, these connections will also be able to verify your stories.

So what would be the best way to add connections for this idea? Should we make use of the default structure, as it's used by Facebook, where people need to confirm connections, should we allow people to tag or follow whoever they please and then delete and block people who we do not want to be connected to, or can we come up with a brand new way to build a community while also helping to verify the truthfulness of the stories?
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Three-pronged verification

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Spook Louw
Spook Louw Jun 21, 2021
One idea I had was for a three-level verification system.

Example: Bobby and I spent December 2011 washing dishes in a bar in Cambodia.

As soon as I mention someone I am prompted to ask them for verification, even if they are not registered to the platform yet. After tagging a name I will get the opportunity to send them a link to verify my story, either via WhatsApp or email. Alternatively, if they are on the platform they will be able to verify the story on the platform and also add it to their page.

This means stories will fall under three categories:
1 - unverified, which could make the story less believable unless you are able to verify it by photos or videos or even newspaper articles or something.
2 - verified via link, this would add a degree of authority to your story, as it would mean that someone has confirmed that your story is true.
3 - verified via platform, this would be the most effective way verify the story, as it would be connected to the profile of the person you mention in the story.

I like this idea as it will encourage many people to send out links trying to verify the story, which means that more people are exposed to the platform.

As for using this to help a user's community, people would be able to follow one another without authorization, so you can follow anyone you find interesting, but you would only be added to one another's list of friends when you have a communal story.
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Povilas S
Povilas S4 months ago
There might be situations where people just wouldn't want to confirm the story. Not because it didn't happen, but because they don't want other people to know where/when/with who they were and what they did. If someone, for example, compromised one meeting for the sake of a better meeting with another company, they wouldn't be willing to reveal it to the members of the first group. Those situations are quite common in social circles.
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni4 months ago
I like the idea of verification. The first application (other than social media) that came to mind was verifying news. We have a session on that (https://brainstorming.com/a-peer-reviewing-system-for-daily-news/320). The users will post events. For example, "Bobby and I spent December 2011 washing dishes in a bar in Cambodia" is an event. News, too, is events. The same verification system can, therefore, be used to verify the news. In the verification process, there can be people involved in the event that can verify the event. In the above example, you and Bobby are the people involved who can verify it. There can also be witnesses who can verify the event. In the above example, maybe the manager who hired you to wash the dishes can verify. There may be others working at the bar who might remember and verify it.

I agree that not all pieces of news have witnesses. But the verification system can help, nonetheless. Since all the news channels, celebrities, public figures, etc. are on social media, there is a thin demarcation between news and social media posts. The news spreads quicker and a large number of news items spread via social media than the traditional news platforms. Verification will, therefore, be more and more important in the future.
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J
Juran4 months ago
Hi Spook Louw! I love the idea of a new verification system because it would bring you one step further away from the current social networks and make the whole thing a lot more entertaining. The second category seems like a nice novel solution, not yet seen in the existing social media.

Can you maybe explain how would you make sure that the story is verified by the exact person mentioned in the story? What if I just send the verification mail or a text message to my secondary mail and verify it myself. One solution could be to check the IP of the person verifying the story, but it leaves a lot of space for fraud.

Also, would you limit the visibility of certain story categories? I can put a story that I partied with Steve Aoki in Ibiza and he'll never verify it. Should it then even be displayed or not? I would hide it until verified, but maybe a lot of unverified stories say something about that person and it can be used to detect and prevent fake profiles.

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General comments

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni4 months ago
I think the idea of the verification of posts/ stories is better than verifying the identity while forming a connection. You can, currently, follow others and they do not decide whether you can follow them or not initially. They can always block you later. However, if you give them that choice from the beginning, then the potential followers will have to send in a request. Reviewing each of these requests is, maybe not that time-consuming for general users, but will be a nightmare for celebrities.
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Spook Louw
Spook Louw4 months ago
Shubhankar Kulkarni I agree with you, that's why I'm thinking of differentiating between "followers" and "friends". While Followers will have access to look at your content, only friends would be able to send you messages or tag you in stories for instance. I'm still not 100% sure how the dynamic is going to work, but I'm working on it.
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni4 months ago
Spook Louw Although the verification of individual accounts is difficult, verification of events is, I think, relatively easier. The verification of events may, in turn, lead to the verification of individuals. If a verified individual is a witness or a participant in an event, the event is validated and so are the other people involved in it. So the verification can happen through association. Initially, the platform may verify a few individuals using a government ID, phone, and email. These verified individuals will start the chain of verification via events.
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Spook Louw
Spook Louw4 months ago
Shubhankar Kulkarni I like that, perhaps there could be even more levels of verification. A person who has had many stories verified could have a higher rank than a newcomer. This way, if a "trustworthy" person verifies your story it is worth more than if a person who is new to the platform verifies your story. This could serve as a way of preventing people from opening multiple accounts and verifying their own stories as well as an incentive to create more content in order to raise your rank.
People who have had many stories verified could get to a point where their stories are marked as a certain degree of verified without even having to get others to verify it. This will make it easier for avid users of the platform to post their stories.
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni4 months ago
Spook Louw Yes, exactly.

I like the idea of having "degrees" in verification. Maybe verification does not need to be a "yes, verified" or "not verified". It can be a percentage. Every witness you provide increases the percentage of the event being true. This increase will depend on the rank of the witness. The verification value can also be dynamic. If any user is identified as fake, the verification value of that user and that of the events that that user voted for as a witness decreases. The friends and followers of that user are notified about the drastic change in the verification value of that user. If the value drops below a certain threshold, maybe the moderators on the platform can perform a personal verification. If everything is found to be in order and the drop in verification is due to unnecessary bad-mouthing, the verification value of that user can be restored. This way, the moderators can keep a check on the notorious users. Also, the workload on the moderators is reduced since not all changes in the users' verification values need to be personally investigated.