Mathew Ingram of GigaOm makes a powerful argument that Twitter needs to be more transparent in light of the @Wendi Deng fiasco. The social media company is declining to comment on how it “verified” an account for Wendi Deng Murdoch, the wife of Rupert Murdoch, after it turned out that the person behind the handle was an impersonator.
Ingram blasts away:
The company’s refusal to provide more details about how the verification process functions may stem in part from its desire to protect the users it is verifying, or to prevent the system from being gamed somehow. But if it is going to continue to ask for the trust of its users, it is going to have to be more transparent about how it manages the network, or risk losing the faith that it has spent so much time building up.
Puncturing Twitter’s official silence is Kara Swisher of AllThingsD, who reports that the snafu owes to a copy-editing issue: The real Wendi Deng account has no underscore in its handle; the fake one does. Someone at Twitter messed up that part of it.
Thus, carrying the distinctive blue check mark, everyone assumed Twitter had verified the right one, until it was soon pointed out by News Corp. and even the fake Deng that it had not.
Twitter then released a statement admitting the obvious, the fake Deng enjoyed basking in the worldwide attention and the still-verified Rupert Murdoch had lobbed some much-noticed tweets.
Both Ingram and Swisher could be on to something here, and it’s that Twitter should get out of this verification business. Whether the mis-verification results from some in-house mistake or from the ever-sharpening skills of web tricksters — some of the world’s most ingenious individuals — we’re bound to see more of these mistaken social-media identities.
The notion of a central authority — the Twitterburo, so to speak — sitting in judgment of authentic identities grinds against the identity of Twitter to begin with. This is a decentralized platform in which the rules are defined by the participants, not by a pod of identity-verifiers.
Twitter, get out of this business. If Rupert Murdoch wants to make it known that he has a Twitter account, let News Corp. issue a press release. Same for his wife. That’ll do the trick.