Verification of Social Media Accounts
Most mainstream, profile-based social media networks offer a verification system to allow users to properly identify legitimate accounts. The user stipulations for this verification varies depending on the network in question, as does the ease with which a person or organization can obtain, and retain, such status.
On the networks with a more relaxed policy, impersonators have taken advantage of this verification to produce more convincing impostor accounts and, in some cases, decrease the probability of being removed. This document serves to exemplify the requirements and restrictions of verification on each major network.
As the most prevalent social media network, Facebook was one of the first to provide verification for specified users in order to prevent fraud. Facebook verification is currently limited to public figures and companies. Facebook has two types of verification, identified with either a blue or grey badge. Blue badges are meant to legitimize profiles and pages for “public figure[s], media compan[ies] or brand[s]”1 whereas grey badges are limited to “Local Business, Company or Organization” pages.2
Blue badges are currently not available for the average user to obtain. It is stated on Facebook’s help pages that access to these badges is limited and that the verification status is not available for purchase.3
Grey badges are accessible by the average user provided they are the owner or admin of, as previously mentioned, a “Local Business, Company, or Organization page.” From their page settings, the user can start a phone call validation process. This involves using a “publicly listed phone number” associated with the business. An automated system within Facebook will then call this number once validated and provide the user with a four-digit PIN to finalize the verification. An alternate method to validate involves the upload of official documents containing the address and name of the business.
Users also can authenticate their page by linking their website, Instagram or Twitter account. This does not provide a grey badge but rather a link to the external entities.
1 https://www.facebook.com/help/196050490547892?helpref=faq_content 2 https://www.facebook.com/help/100168986860974?helpref=related 3 https://www.facebook.com/help/100168986860974?helpref=faq_content
Like Facebook, Twitter tends to reserve verification approval for those involved in “music, acting, fashion, government, politics, religion, journalism, media, sports, business, and other key interest areas.” Other users do have the ability to apply for verification, however, subsequent approval is dependent on meeting certain criteria. These requirements are not only limited to proof of identity, but also include strict account structure and limitations on conduct within the account.
In terms of information required from the individual or company, Twitter requires a confirmed phone number and email address, a birthdate (for individuals), a linked website, and a copy of government-issued photo identification. Once collected, the owner of the account is required to complete a form with the pertinent information. Additionally, the owner must provide written justification for Twitter “to understand their impact in their field,” as well as URLs to sites to “help express the account holder’s newsworthiness or relevancy in their field.”
Once the brand or individual has provided this information, they must ensure that the appearance of the Twitter account in question meets the physical requirements. In particular, the profile must include the person’s real or stage name, the name of the company to be represented, a full bio, and profile and header photos. The bio must indicate the user’s “area of expertise and/or a company mission” while the photos used are required to match the person and/or the company’s branding. Lastly, it is mandatory that the profile be set to public.
The subsequent approval process can apparently take some time to be completed. Twitter may respond suggesting edits to the information provided by the user for resubmission. If denied, the applicant can resubmit after thirty days. 4
Instagram is the only major social network to explicitly state that the purpose of its verification badges is for “accounts that have a high likelihood of being impersonated” and thus bars any purchase or request for this feature by the average user. This feature has been available since December of 2014 and is regarded as Instagram’s confirmation of “the authentic account for the public figure, celebrity or global brand it represents” and allows for users to distinguish impersonators from real accounts.
Instagram actively reviews the accounts it verifies to ensure that their behavior does not violate their Community Guidelines. The network reserves the right to revoke verification should the account violate these Terms of Service or go private. For average users, Instagram offers the option to link their Instagram through their website, Twitter or Facebook page.5
4 https://support.twitter.com/articles/20174631 5 https://help.instagram.com/854227311295302
YouTube’s verification process, much like Instagram’s, is limited to specific accounts and is not available to the general public. In order to be eligible for application for verification, the channel in question must first accumulate 100,000 subscribers. 6
Once eligible for verification, the owner of the YouTube channel is required make other provisions. The user must have the channel linked to a Google+ page that has been approved by the company or brand it represents. This Google+ page must also contain a link to the organization’s website, a link that has been verified on the page.7
Once approved, the channel will receive a badge to the right of its name on its main page. Although the verification will be removed if the channel is renamed, it will remain even if the subscriber count falls below the eligibility threshold. Much like the other social networks, a user risks losing their verification if they should violate YouTube’s Terms of Service.8