Time For Verified Twitter Accounts & An Easy Way To Do It

I’m not the first to talk about the problem with knowing whether a “real person” is behind an account on Twitter. I’m probably not the first to suggest this solution, either. But I’ll add another voice to hoping Twitter makes account verification possible. It would help.

I was struck when reading the blog of LeVar Burton tonight, who’s massively popular now on Twitter (@levarburton) after such a short time. What got him going on Twitter initially? To combat a “fake LeVar.” As he wrote:

I joined Twitter because it came to my attention that there was someone who was impersonating me! Actually pretending to be LeVar Burton. Now, I must admit to being no stranger to social networking sites and am certainly aware of the number of “fake LeVars” on MySpace and Facebook and I know you can’t control that kind of thing… but! It really bugged me that this “person” had convinced an impressive number of people following his every post or Tweet as they are known in Twitter Dom, that he was me. So with the help of the good folks at Twitter, the ‘fake LeVar Burton’ got kicked to the curb and I reclaimed my inalienable right to speak for myself!

This type of thing is a problem. Seth Godin is another celebrated example. Someone established a fake account in his name, gained a ton of followers, and Seth finally had to say it wasn’t him.

Sidenote: Seth, even if Twitter is not “you” as you wrote last year, if you’re really a marketer, you’re long overdue to make it you. You’ve got the account now, dump the “placeholder” and do something, anything, with it. You’re missing the cluetrain.

People shouldn’t have to figure out if LeVar is really LeVar, if Seth is really Seth. Twitter needs to establish a way for people to verify their identies. And it’s incredibly easy for this to happen.

Over at Google Webmaster Central, they set up a way ages ago for site owners to verify that they really owned the sites they wanted to manage using Google’s tools. Easy. You either install a unique meta tag on a page you submitted to Google Webmaster Central or you install a unique file name on your server. Once you do this, you ask to have that information verified. Google Webmaster Central does a check, and if the right info is in the place they said, they know you really do control the site.

I want a similar thing from Twitter. Let me “verify” one or more web sites via my profile. For example, my Twitter profile currently links to my blog here at Daggle. Twitter should go a step further. Give me either a unique meta tag or file name I could put on my blog. Push a button, Twitter checks, if it sees I’ve installed things, then it could put a “verified” icon next to my site. To further help with identity verification, let people verify two or three different sites, if they want.

It’s easy for anyone to register a Twitter account in someone else’s name (I’ve done it myself, for good purposes). It’s easy for someone to also link to a “real” site for that person, use their image and follow some people you’d expect the “real” person to follow as well. It’s much harder for someone to gain control of the “real” person’s blog or web site.

Add verification, and people no longer have to guess so much whether it really is Al Gore on Twitter as we did last November. They can simply see that Al Gore’s Twitter account links to his site, and that Twitter has verified that his site links back to his Twitter account in a confirmed fashion.

It’s easy. C’mon, Twitter, do it. Especially as concern rises about fake accounts and spam associated with them, this seems like an easy fix.

Postscript: Andy Beard pointed out that the Google Social Graph API might also be a solution. Agreed — I almost mentioned it but ran out of steam when doing this post last night.

Mine The Web’s Socially-Tagged Links: Google Social Graph API Launched is an article I wrote last year that explains the system in more detail. You can see in that article how through the graph, it could already see that my Twitter account and my blog were connected.

Twitter could implement this and get a number of accounts verified fairly quickly. But there will still be some cases where someone can’t put up a Twitter widget but still wants to use some web page to help verify their identity. Imagine someone at a company who can’t blog or is unable to install a “what I’m Twittering” gadget. They still might want to use a page about them or the corporate web site home page itself to claim their identity. So it would be nice to have both.

Postscript 2: See Twitter To Offer “Verified Accounts”.


Comments

  1. bobsocks says

    Re Valebrity. Looks like a good idea. But there is considerable work to be done before I would put a lot of faith in it. i.e. does not verify that twitter account is valid, contains bad hyperlinks, etc. But worth watching to see if it gets better.

  2. Casey says

    (a year later) Good idea, but how would Twitter know if the web site linked is false?

  3. HLDeVore says

    Ditto to Casey’s comment… Danny you’re smart enough to realize that someone who is going to extreme efforts to fake could easily setup a fake blog and then verify…so then a human would need to determine the blog is fake and then Twitter’s scaling of an sort of automation is ruined because humans need to get involved… Ultimately this simply shouldn’t be Twitter’s responsibility. If someone drives in a Dodge pickup truck to commit a bank robbery does Dodge get sued for facilitating and allowing a bankrobber to rob banks? Leave Twitter alone I say and let people chase away and sue the fakes!…Twitter does not need to be the identity cop…that would be ludicrous! If I was a VC or knew a VC who had invested in Twitter (-; I’d tell the VC that Twitter should charge a small fee for verification of accounts…say $10…even just one time ever!? When the account verifies it must agree to legal terms that it DOES NOT impersonate or violate a trademark to the best of it’s knowledge…they must also at that time provide name, address and billing info (which is not currently provided)… THEN a notice to the Twitterverse could be sent that says…”Look, we’ve had a problem. There are jerks out there that impersonate. If you are following a celebrity or a corporation and they have NOT verified you should be a little bit more suspect that they may not be who they say they are… We’re not saying don’t trust unverified accounts…we are saying though trust VERIFIED accounts have pledged that they legally ARE who they say they are…” Thanks TwitterGuys… P.S. – Anybody want to enter the $100,000 competition for ideas for “How to make Twitter money without pissing off the Twitterverse?”… (-:

    My two cents for today/tonight…. Goodnight! -H.L.

  4. says

    Casey, Twitter could easily know if a site is valid. As I said, this is what Google Webmaster Central already does. You sign-up for an account with Google. They give you a unique code. You put that on your web site. Google sees it, knows that you’ve validated the code.

    In the real world, Oprah opens a Twitter account. She puts the code on the Oprah web site. Twitter sees the code, marks Oprah’s account as validated to her site.

    Yes, someone could claim Oprah’s name, but they can’t get access to her own web site. As best, they’d have to put together a fake Oprah site and validate to that — as HLDeVore is talking about. But that also poses problems — if Twitter gets a report that the blog is fake, pretty easy to then blacklist it from being part of the verification process in the future.

    Nothing’s perfect, but this is an easy way to accelerate the verification process. In addition, it fits into what Twitter is already advising — that if a person doesn’t have one of the new Twitter verification seals, then look to the person’s site and see if they link back to their Twitter account.

  5. says

    Hi Danny, i am a Non-famous Web Celebrity who is from Maldives and currently been Awarded from Mashable and Also CES 2009. I am wondering is why does Twitter activation takes too long?? and why does they leave many peoples who are musician from Asia, Europe, Australia not verified.. I guess this is a big question for Twitter…

    I have applied to twitter to verify my account.. but still no result… could you prefer me an option?