The Problem with Twitter’s Verified Accounts

twitter-verifiedToday, Twitter launched verified accounts. A great initiative indeed, but they forgot one thing: one can’t define good without defining a bad …

Being a Twitter user myself I applaud the fact that they introduce Verified Accounts, as – especially for high-profile profiles such as celebrities – it is needed. One wouldn’t want to lose thousands of fans by actions done by an imposer.

With this feature, you can easily see which accounts we know are ‘real’ and authentic. That means we’ve been in contact with the person or entity the account is representing and verified that it is approved. (This does not mean we have verified who, exactly, is writing the tweets.)

This also does not mean that accounts without the ‘Verified Account’ badge are fake. The vast majority of accounts on the system are not impersonators, and we don’t have the ability to check 100% of them. For now, we’ve only verified a handful of accounts to help with cases of mistaken identity or impersonation.


Now, what the Twitter guys and gals quickly off as a side-issue (see emphasis above, added by me) could actually be a big issue in my opinion. Let’s say that we found the real Fat Freddy’s Drop (a band from New Zealand) on Twitter, then Twitter – after checking up, of course – would most likely add the Verified Account badge to their account. Now what if we stumbled upon a fake Fat Freddy’s Drop account on Twitter? Is it The Real Thing (TM) in an unverified state, or is he actually fake a user might ask. Let’s presume that the account actually is fake, how will Twitter make their visitors/users aware of this fact? Delete/suspend it you say? Okay, but what if the Fake Fat Freddy’s Drop account were to be run by a fan, and actually is spreading genuine information? How will Twitter make it clear that it’s not Fat Freddy tweeting, but a fan? Yes, that’s right: they can’t.

The core of problem is quite simple: if you define something as good, the opposite isn’t neutral as Twitter states, but bad (viz. the opposite of white is black, not gray).

Opposites; Elmo gets it 😉

Given this, I think Twitter should introduce an extra state which defines bad. By this the visitor/user will be able to distinguish an unverified from a bad account.

While they are at it, they could add extra account statuses such as “fan”, “impersonation/fake”, “bot”, etc. By this the visitor/user will be immediately know who or what they are dealing with and statuses will be able to hold a multitude of values. Whether the latter is even workable is of course to be studied upon. On the other hand: if every Twitter user wants to get his account verified, then it too will be a hell of a job …

Published by Bramus!

Bramus is a frontend web developer from Belgium, working as a Chrome Developer Relations Engineer at Google. From the moment he discovered view-source at the age of 14 (way back in 1997), he fell in love with the web and has been tinkering with it ever since (more …)

Unless noted otherwise, the contents of this post are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License and code samples are licensed under the MIT License

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  1. Also interesting, what about defensively claimed accounts? I guess there are some people out there (like me) that have registered there name as account, but tweet from a different one (say with their regular nick name, like me). It is mine, but it doesn’t do anything.

  2. Good idea. It would kind of be like the “dislike” option for Facebook or voting something down when you don’t like it on a social bookmarking site – giving your user base an option to police their own social network usually results in less work for you. Democracy ftw.

  3. Hi

    I agree, but, I think is more important Twitter introduce an extra state which defines as “fan”, “impersonation/fake”, “bot”, that a “bad” one … Thats my opinion

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