The issue of Twitter scams is not that complicated.

With every element of Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter under constant scrutiny, there has been no shortage of headlines related to the social media giant over the past few months. Twitter has had a tumultuous few months under a new owner; there were layoffs (and rehirings); changes in user experience; and, of course, Twitter is constantly trying to fix – and monetize – its user verification system.

After initially launching in November, Twitter Blue, originally pitched as a social media platform revenue-generating scheme, quickly took an unexpected turn, involving everyone from LeBron James to Lockheed Martin. Twitter pranksters seized the opportunity by paying $8 to verify and immediately began impersonating public figures and brands, sending obscene and boisterous messages on Twitter that ended up costing companies billions.

The company has since retooled its Twitter Blue system with new verification badges designed to protect companies and governments from impostors, as well as a labeling system that shows what type of verification a user has. There is a waiting period for new accounts that want to sign up for Twitter Blue and a mobile phone number is also required. That’s enough to stop the rampant scam frenzy that the company faced in November, but still not enough to stop a determined impostor.

The blue check mark does not always correspond to the confirmed one

Twitter’s fight against user verification demonstrates just how vulnerable the online world is to fraud. If a few bored people can crash the stock market with just a phone number and email address, imagine what a few organized bad guys can do. This is not a risk that Twitter or the economy can afford.

The problem of paid verification is a trap created by social media companies themselves, whose blue checkmarks are arguably the most effective digital literacy tool developed in the last decade.

After years of conditioning, web users assume that there is some degree of validation behind the blue check, even if the steps behind this check are somewhat nebulous. Under the old Twitter leadership, the blue checkmark was even more than a check; it was a test, and the loss of a blue check was often a punishment for extremists and individuals deemed to have violated Twitter policy.

If Musk and Twitter want to reimagine the world of social media verification, they must do so by starting with a clean reimagining of the verification process and reversing their understanding of what Twitter Blue is and what it can be. Verification is not just a status that you pay for, but rather a status that users pay to confirm.

Sacrificing safety for experience

According to Twitter Blue’s latest update, Twitter treats the verification process as a transaction; the customer buys the product, and Twitter needs to get it into their hands and into their account as soon as possible. They want uninterrupted customer service but sacrifice security as a result.

This is a familiar problem – if the process takes too long or is too complicated, users may leave and companies will lose sales. This is why web optimization services are in such high demand.

But Twitter isn’t the first company to need to verify a digital identity. For example, the financial services industry faces strict Know Your Customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering (AML) regulations and has yet managed to adapt digital enrollment, typically using a combination of biometrics and physical IDs, to comply. real person. with a government-issued ID. Importantly, many banks can now verify users in minutes, if not seconds.

In fact, more consumers than ever have become accustomed to these forms of identity verification since the pandemic. Virtual identity verification is no longer an unknown concept for individuals or companies as the pandemic has forced hundreds of companies to identify methods to build trust with customers while keeping their systems safe from fraud. From banks to car rentals to online shopping, there are already dozens of Twitter Blue use cases on the market.

Of course, the level of proof that banks need before allowing a customer to open a checking account may not meet Twitter’s requirements for most of its users. While full identity verification may be an appropriate method for someone trying to create a Twitter account by posing as a political candidate or CEO, it may not be suitable for a popular meme account.

This is where Twitter has a chance to take it to the next level when it comes to social media validation and determine which other fraud signals can seamlessly determine legitimacy while also upholding the values ​​of privacy and security. This is an area where the growing trend towards digital wallets and IDs can be useful – allowing Twitter to view some of the credentials that contribute to the account’s legitimacy while maintaining the degree of anonymity that has made Twitter such an effective tool for social dialogue.

With the new verification system comes new forms of fraud – unused and unverified. Twitter Blue can work, but only if there’s a real test behind it.

Yuelin Li – Product Director Onfidocontrol over the product, design and strategy.

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