Tovera acquires SnifflesNFT as it chases after NFT fraud

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Tovera is one of the companies sniffing out fraud in transactions involving non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and now it has teamed up with another anti-fraud company SnifflesNFT.

Chicago-based Tovera has acquired SnifflesNFT for an undisclosed price. The idea is to screen NFTs on marketplaces such as OpenSea (which dominates the NFT market) for fake NFTs which can scam users out of their money.

Sniffles has developed a technology that detects NFTs minted without permission, automates takedown requests on NFT marketplaces and notifies collectors holding unauthorized digital content.

Tovera has also developed its own NFT image recognition technology for both marketplaces and consumers. Right now, Tovera believes it is the only company offering a free version of the technology at FNFTF.io. An enterprise version, Tovera Match, is also available for marketplaces.

“We’ve spent the last year addressing the fraud and trust issues in the web3 ecosystem with an initial emphasis on NFTs,” said Tovera founder and CEO Kristian Kielhofner said in an interview with GamesBeat.

As a fraud and plagiarism scandal around OpenSea, the largest NFT marketplace, continues to unfold, scams that include copyminting pose a huge threat to the entire NFT ecosystem. Without the right tools in place to inform consumers, bots are stealing digital art and minting them without the artists’ permission on NFT marketplaces. The Sniffles team is joining Tovera to strengthen the image detection capabilities to help identify even the smallest changes to NFTs and empower the web3 community to be part of the solution. OpenSea has said it is trying to do something about the fraud, and it talked about its new copymint protection system, and its attempts to hide suspicious NFTs.

Tovera’s efforts

The SnifflesNFT team will join Tovera and work on advancing the company’s image recognition technology that is core to Tovera Match and FNFTF.io. FNFTF.io is free to use and available to anyone interested in validating the authenticity of an NFT. Together the companies will help NFT marketplaces combat forgery, NFT creators protect their intellectual property, and NFT consumers avoid scams.

“We started SnifflesNFT to help artists protect their work,” says Mert Hilmi Iseri, founder of SnifflesNFT, in a statement. “Fraud erodes trust in ecosystems, and without trust, there will be no web3 ecosystem. Marketplaces like OpenSea know that they have a massive issue in their hands, and yet they are simply doing the bare minimum to help artists.”

He added, “Their latest announcement is no more than lip service and it doesn’t get to the core of the problem, which is much broader than just a single blockchain. We are here to set the standard of what it means to be a trusted marketplace for the entire NFT economy.”

Fighting fraud

Kristian Kielhofner of Tovera is left. Mert Hilmi Iseri of SnifflesNFT is right.

As the OpenSea debacle continues to unfold, scams that include copyminting pose a huge threat to the entire NFT ecosystem. Without the right tools in place to inform consumers, bots are stealing digital art and minting them without the artists’ permission on NFT marketplaces. The Sniffles team is joining Tovera to strengthen the image detection capabilities to help identify even the smallest changes to NFTs and empower the Web3 community to be part of the solution.

“Tovera is on a mission to bring trust to Web3 while also ensuring the authenticity and provenance of NFTs,” said Kielhofner. “By acquiring SnifflesNFT we will accelerate our mission by augmenting our team and incorporating advanced image recognition technology. We look forward to enabling trust with our upcoming partnerships with NFT marketplaces.”

For creators and collectors, Tovera Match technology can be used for free at FNFTF.io. For marketplaces, Tovera Match is also available via API to power authentication on NFT platforms. FNFTF.io enables users to upload any NFT and see results based on image similarity, contract, date and blockchain. Additional details including file type, block number and token ID are also available with more data coming soon.

Tovera started with a proactive treatment, authentication and provenance approach for multiple chain support and marketplace support.

“We quickly realized that there’s a tremendous amount of fraudulent activity and resulting trust issues in the hundreds of millions of NFT assets that are already there,” Kielhofner said. “So this is why we created our reactive approach, Tovera Match, to address a lot of the fraud taking place in the space today.”

Indexing NFTs by the millions

Tovera can find copies of supposedly unique NFTs that are uploaded multiple times to NFT markets.

The company can index every NFT and NFT transaction on the Ethereum and Polygon blockchains, he said.

“And we make every aspect of the NFT, including the content, searchable, so that a creator or a marketplace or an end user, consumer or collector can get the full historical perspective on any NFT that they’re reviewing in order to determine if it’s the original authentic NFT or if it’s a copy,” he aid.

The details are available on the blockchain in terms of historical timestamps for NFT transactions. And usually the original and authentic NFT is the one that has the oldest timestamp.

The company gets its hands on the content and the metadata associated with it. “NFTs are fundamentally stored off chain,” Kielhofner said. “They can be stored in a variety of different places. So doing the secondary crawl and retrieving content is a bit of a technical challenge that we’ve addressed. And then we take that content and index it so that we can do rapid and reliable searching of that content for visually identical and visually similar images.”

Users can search for NFTs on FNFTF.io, and if the result comes back negative with only one item, then they can be more certain that it is an original.

“Typically, we find a half-dozen copies,” said Kielhofner said. “The art that appears oldest on the timeline is almost certainly the original NFT.”

One of the problems is “lazy minting,” where an NFT is offered for sale but it isn’t put on the blockchain until it is sold. That’s a way of getting out of unnecessary “minting” fees, which are the costs associated with recording a transaction or record on the blockchain. But quite often these NFTs get plagiarized and OpenSea has warned about the possible fraud.

“We address a variety of kinds of issues for creators. And then for end users on the other side of this transaction, the consumers and the collectors, we enable them to be able to do meaningful research,” Kielhofner said.

The way to stop some of the fraud is to pre-screen the postings to the marketplace and spot the exact copies of something that is already in existence or already posted on the market. And then that posting should not be allowed to happen a second or third time or more.

“There is certainly increasing awareness of these fraud and trust issues that we believe threaten the entire ecosystem,” Kielhofner said. “And so there are a couple of forward-looking [companies] truly invested in the long term health and value of the ecosystem.”

Tovera has been self financed so far and it has 10 people. The effort began about a year ago and the screening has been in place a matter of months. Tovera has about 75 million NFTs indexed now.

Kielhofner said he encountered a like-minded thinker in the anti-fraud space when he came across Iseri a few months ago. SnifflesNFT was one of the only other publicly available projects addressing the fraud and forgery issues in NFTs. Within a week, they were talking about how they could combine forces.

“It was kind of awesome because Kristian and I had so many shared experiences,” said Iseri in an interview with GamesBeat. “Both of us have sisters who are digital artists and they are passionate about their craft. It’s really the little people who suffer the most.”

Iseri added, “This is no different than taking someone’s original piece of art. We actually care and we want to help the artists. It was really a meeting of the minds and we got together.”

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