Does Blind Faith Play a Role in Twitter’s Verification Process?

Twitter’s verification process has been called into question after the company awarded a Verified Badge to the account @wendi_deng, which was created by somebody pretending to be Rupert Murdoch's wife, Wendi Deng Murdoch. To make matters worse, when the impostor’s cover was blown, Twitter opted not to provide any information as to how the mistake happened, or how its cryptic verification process works.

On Jan. 1, a British man created the fake Twitter account for Wendi Deng Murdoch a day after Ruper Murdoch famously arrived on the microblogging site. Soon after he had started actively tweeting on the fake account, Twitter verified it. The creator of @wendi_deng account later told The Guardian that Twitter had not tried to contact him at the e-mail address he had used to register the account, and was shocked that Twitter verified the account as authentic without “checking it out.”

The Verified Badge remained on the account for two days, until Tuesday, Jan. 3, before it was removed. “We don’t comment on our verification process but can confirm that the @wendi_deng was mistakenly verified for a short period of time. We apologize for the confusion this caused,” Twitter said in a statement.

Twitter’s Verified Badge is used to “establish the authenticity of well-known accounts so users can trust that a legitimate source is authoring their tweets.” Such a system is necessary considering Twitter’s value in delivering up-to-date news and information from a wide variety of trusted sources. The Verified Badge also provides a sense that someone's in charge—when Twitter says an account is verified to be real, users put faith in the company being right. In other words, it all comes down to trust, and that's exactly what Twitter has to lose after this recent snafu. A little transparency about its verification system could go a long way toward rebuilding that trust.