The largest microblogging and social networking site, Twitter, on Tuesday, admitted to having mistakenly verified a handful of fake accounts, which the company has now permanently suspended, weeks after restarting its verification program.
Twitter, in May, had announced that it would reopen the application process for verification. which allows users to initiate submissions for getting their profiles verified, successfully putting a years-long wait to an end.
The verification blunder came into the spotlight after a data scientist reportedly discovered six verified accounts with a similar number of followers. These accounts with close to 1000 followers seemed inactive since they hadn’t posted a single photograph or tweet that would validate their presence. In fact, two of the accounts were observed to be using stock photographs as their display pictures. Following the occurrence, Twitter took down five accounts, while the sixth was seemingly eliminated on its own accord.
It is yet to be clear how the fake accounts could get their hands on the highly coveted Twitter blue badge. Social media specialists also highlight that any rectifying action was taken only after the data scientist Conspirador Norteño testified the discrepancy.
A statement issued by a spokesperson for the company said, “We mistakenly accepted the verification applications of a small number of fake accounts,” while adding, “Having realized the error, we have now permanently suspended the accounts. We have also removed their verification badge, as per our platform manipulation and spam policy.”
Owing to users’ accusation of the verification being “arbitrary,” “confusing,” and an “endorsement or indicator of importance,” the application process was put to halt in 2017. Introducing it back this year, the social networking platform laid down some stringent guidelines. As per Twitter’s updated verification rules, accounts should be active in the last six months and match one of many criteria: companies, news outlets and journalists, government, entertainment, brands and organizations, gaming and sports activists, and other notable and influential individuals.
Following this announcement, Twitter revealed that it would start offering more information through emails to applicants whose verification requests are denied. This move came after users voiced dissatisfaction over the insufficiency of transparency provided.
The former chief of security at Facebook, Alex Stamos, was quick to theorize that the mistake could be an attempt of a malicious or bribed insider rather than a mere accident, as the company claims it to be. “Something similar happened with Instagram (paid off by spammers),” the tweet read.
It’s likely that a lot of users are messing up their applications. But the rejection of authentic user applications and bots receiving verification highlights the existence of a bigger problem.