Back in July, Twitter opened its authentication program to the public. If you felt like you capable for verification, you could apply using a actually easy online form. Simple, right? On the surface; yes, but Twitter’s internal protocols for authentication are still a mystery. One mystery solved, however. If you have ever sat and thought to yourself. “Hey, I wonder if Twitter verifies Swedish adult chat spammers,” then you’re in luck because it appears as if they do.
Twitter has been in the line of fire on occasion, in part because of its lack of protection from trolls and accounts created for phishing purposes. In spite of having tools for reporting such accounts, it seems like the movement to eliminate the offenders isn’t as urgent as it should be. Thankfully, there are vigilant users that call out the accounts and warn others before they fall victim to criminals stealing their sensitive information. Hacking has also been a major concern, with the recent Turkey/Netherlands incident fresh in our minds.
The verification program, aside from confirming an account is that of the owner, serves as a symbol of trust and is given to those who are public figures, in one way or another. “Public figure” is a broad term. Twitter narrows that down to people in the fields of music, acting, journalism (even freelancers, hello!) sports, and other key interest areas.
This brings us back to the Swedish adult chat account that is verified. It would appear as though this account would be of public interest if we were to apply the knowledge we have of Twitter’s policies. But it’s really not. Or maybe it is, if we are to assume Twitter actually verified this account. The problem here is that in spite of rules about age limits (the current age minimum is 13), the network provides no protection from the explicit content of these accounts. After testing the “sensitive media” block in the settings, this verified account still displayed the profile photo and explicit information.
The other scary part is that Twitter hasn’t picked up on this, even after it has reported. Whether or not the account was hacked, this shows that Twitter’s system for protecting accounts, especially those that are verified, is seriously flawed.
What does this mean for the rest of us?
Well, incidents like these shine a light on a much bigger problem with online security. No one is safe, not even high profile accounts. Verified accounts are not safe either. One would think that the algorithms set in place would lend to layered protection to those who are verified, but that isn’t the case. Twitter has had trouble on this front since its inception and it is still very much out of control.
This further calls into question the actual process of becoming verified. Take for instance, being a freelance journalist, or any member of the media. Some are verified through their media outlet, while freelancers rely on their portfolios to provide proof of their careers so that the Twitter overlords can make an informed decision about your worth as a human. I’m not verified. I’ve tried five times. The fact that Twitter decided to verify the random adult chat spam account is a slap in the face to people out there who are actual professionals that bring value.
The company’s lack of expedient actions taken to protect its users is even worse. Hopefully, the new features being rolled out will help to prevent this in the future and that the verification process will be adjusted to be more friendly to the people who actually qualify. More importantly, they need to develop a better system for detecting and eliminating these accounts. Oh and not verify them.