(Anti-)Social Media Badness The Furry Fandom

Furry Amino Sucks at Art Attribution

Over the weekend, I decided to make an account on Furry Amino. My reasoning at the time was, “A lot of furries lurk there, I should see what it’s about.”

That was a bad move that I’d like to discourage others from making.

What’s Furry Amino?

Furry Amino is a furry-centric community on the Amino social media app with (as of this writing) over 539,000 members. This membership is growing at a rapid pace. According to WikiFur, they clocked in at 220,000 accounts in May 2018.

Amino communities have two types of moderators: Leaders and Curators. Despite the enormous volume and pressure of activity, there are only four leaders and about a dozen active curators.

Furry Amino is especially popular among younger furries–which anyone who runs a furry community online can attest correlates strongly with art theft and impersonation.

Why Does Furry Amino Suck at Art Attribution?

Furries have an understandably tendency err on the side of protecting artists. If you combine this observation with the enormous volume of (especially young) members, low volume of moderators, and the rampant art theft and impersonation that correlates with young furries, you’ve just synthesized a moderation nightmare.

However, this is not an appropriate way for moderators to cope with this pressure:

Hey Soatok!

Hej hej!

This is Gary, one of the curators on this amino. Unfortunately I had to hide your profile as it contains someone else's art that does not belong to you.

But do not worry as this is easy to fix! All that is needed is for you to change your profile picture to something you own.

If you do not have a fursona or any art of your fursona, no problem! You are free to look through #nopfpnoproblem. There you will find tons of free to use images made by members of Furry Amino. Read through the post thoroughly and if they ask for credit, please do so in your bio/page

Once that is all done, feel free to reply to this comment or direct message me explaining the change has been made. Your account will be unhidden!

If you think this is a mistake, let me know!

The profile picture in question was this piece, which was a Christmas gift from TheMikeFox.

The problem isn’t their general strategy, but the word choice in their form letter.

This message:

  1. Accuses me, without proof, of using someone else’s art that does not belong to me.
  2. Asserts that the fix is to “change your profile picture to something you own”.

If you think this is a one-time blunder, never fear. A friend of mine joined soon after and experienced the same treatment.

Credit: Anonymous furry

But it gets even stupider from here:

The Furry Amino curator claims, in the same conversation to my friend, that a) we don’t have time to necessarily Google search every name we see; and b) I used a Google search to accuse you of art theft.

One of these things is not like the other!
(Art by Lynx vs Jackalope)

There are a couple of things that the Furry Amino curators could have done to make their initial message less caustic towards its recipients.

  1. Actually verify that the art is stolen before firing from the hip.
    This won’t scale to the volumes that Furry Amino deals with, but it’s the most obvious thing to do differently, so it’s worth addressing up front.

    Let’s put a pin in this idea for a moment.
  2. Add “we believe” as a preamble to the accusatory statements.
    The current form letter is dishonest and implies a level of investigative diligence that the curators simply do not perform.

    Since they don’t actually know who’s an impersonator and/or art thief or not (n.b. if they did, they would’ve known–surprise!–that I’m myself), and instead they hold a mistaken belief based on a misfiring heuristic, simply adding the two words, “we believe,” to their accusations makes them far less insulting, and much more honest.

Here’s how a hypothetical corrected message might read:

This is Yiffy McSparkledog, one of the curators on this amino. Unfortunately I had to hide your profile because we believe it contains someone else’s art that does not belong to you.

(I also changed “as” to “because” because it flows better. Not an essential difference, but a nice-to-have.)

It’s functionally equivalent to what they wrote, but doesn’t have the same biting overconfidence of a Dunning-Krüger case study. A marked improvement!

Against Art Theft and Impersonation

Let’s unpin the idea from the previous section.

How do you, as a moderator for a social media app with a firehose of user-generated content, successfully detect when someone is impersonating someone else and/or stealing art of their fursona?

You don’t.

The infrastructure for attaining any sort of assurance of ownership for furry art or identity for fursonas simply doesn’t exist.

There are a lot of bad ways to solve this problem: You could, for example, use a blockchain (or NFTs!) or some complicated Web-of-Trust-alike Public Key Infrastructure to staple proof-of-{ownership,identity} onto the existing furry art sharing websites (i.e. FurAffinity, which doesn’t even have a public API in 2021).

And then you could use the public keys obtained from this over-complicated mess of additional infrastructure to build a challenge-response authentication protocol–taking care to cryptographically bind the challenges and responses to a domain and unique recipient identifier.

Or you could just be reactive, instead of proactive. That will significantly reduce the number of false positives.

Also, make it easier for users to report impersonators. Increase the number of curators, sourced from trustworthy active users, to handle art theft complaints. This will significantly reduce the number of false negatives.

Or perhaps the Amino developers could take a page from Stack Exchange’s review queues, as Nic Hartley points out:

In Conclusion

There are a few steps–easy and simple steps–that the Furry Amino moderation team could take to drastically reduce the amount of bullshit and animosity they cause through their misconduct.

But none of these steps will ever happen.

I have no hope of this feedback ever reaching their leadership and changing anything. In response to my initial feedback, one of their leaders took to half-baked apologia on a Twitter account that wasn’t obviously affiliated with the Furry Amino moderation effort (nor did they make any attempt to identify themselves as such).

That’s not how you earn trust as a moderator for a large community.

Until they make some drastic changes to their moderation style, maybe avoid Furry Amino. The critical mass of furries is on Telegram anyway.

Header art by SkaiSkai and Lynx vs Jackalope. Furry Amino logo taken from WikiFur.

By Soatok

Security engineer with a fursona. Ask me about dholes or Diffie-Hellman!

5 replies on “Furry Amino Sucks at Art Attribution”

I think your idea is along the right lines. Especially of you stream the artwork being created. So, the video stream, the original, and several common image sizes for social media. Then it’s just a matter of getting a proof of ownership token from the NFT for the forum. Also, that way, you’re using an image from the NFT pack and the forum site can even have a verified checkmark since you’ve shown proof of ownership. There’s a lot to like here. The main problem would be making it easy for artists and some consistency for the forum sites to implement.

Had never heard of Amino before, but since you obviously seem to be at acquainted with it than myself: Is my impression correct that from a technical and privacy PoV it’s just another Facebook? With that I mean by that is: Amino/Narvii can and will see and process all messages going through any of the “apps” – including “private” ones, which appear to play a key role there – and uses this to sell their users out to advertisers in the most customizable way possible.

Wasn’t planning on doing any of the furry things there anyways, but it’d be good to know whether my above assumptions about it are true in case it becomes a thing around here to.

Bark My Way

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