X still has a huge problem with account verification, TechCrunch writers say

By Jurassic JennJun 29, 2024 14:39 PMTech
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X (former Twitter)
X (former Twitter). Source: techcrunch.com

Earlier this week, while perusing X (formerly known as Twitter), TechCrunch writer made a startling discovery. It appeared that they had reposted a series of TechCrunch articles, or so it seemed. However, upon closer inspection, they realized that someone had created an impersonator account using the publication's name. The profile displayed the same default and header photos from their actual account, featuring them on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt 2022 and side-eye Chloe. The bio claimed to be that of a senior reporter for TechCrunch, located in NY, where they are currently based. Interestingly, this account was created in May 2024. This is prepared by SSP.

What struck them as even more surprising was the presence of a blue checkmark next to the account name, indicating it was a verified profile. Previously, on X when it was Twitter, the blue checkmark denoted a verified person of interest. But ever since Elon Musk took over and introduced paid subscriptions, the checkmark also signifies those who have invested at least $8 per month for premium benefits such as longer posts, reduced ads, improved algorithmic consideration, and Grok. While X reinstated verification based on follower count in April, the presence of the blue badge could also indicate allegiance to Musk. Skeptical? Just take a look at the plethora of ardent respondents on any of Musk's posts.

For the record, the writer is neither a paying subscriber nor a Musk enthusiast.

Regrettably, they weren't the only one targeted by impersonation accounts. Several TechCrunch journalists experienced a similar situation. Some of these accounts, including the fake one imitating them, have since been suspended after being reported to X. However, this suggests that X is well aware of the problem at hand.

The fundamental issue lies in the susceptibility of X's verification system, which seems to lack any identity authentication measures. Employing a pay-to-play model with the blue checkmark system only paves the way for nefarious actors and even nation-states to exploit it. One would think that X had learned its lesson already. Back in November 2023, when Musk initially introduced what was then referred to as Twitter Blue, it quickly became a tool utilized by malevolent parties to pose as celebrities, corporations, and government officials. One instance involved an account impersonating the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and posting a false announcement regarding free insulin. The tweet garnered millions of views before being removed, resulting in a blow to the company's stock value. Another account pretended to be LeBron James, asserting his desire to be traded from the Lakers. Similarly, someone posed as Connor McDavid and claimed their hockey contract had been purchased by the New York Islanders.

Thankfully, the TechCrunch impersonator accounts have been relatively harmless thus far, primarily reposting content that any one of us might share. This indicates that rather than being orchestrated by notably malicious personas, these accounts were likely crafted by automated bots.

TechCrunch have addressed X's bot problem afflicting Verified users before. Ironically, Musk suggested that requiring payment for verification would curtail the presence of bots on the platform. However, it is evident this strategy hasn't been effective.

For those who have fallen victim to impersonation, X does provide a reporting mechanism that involves third-party verification, requiring the uploading of government-issued identification and a selfie. Additionally, the writer enlisted the help of colleagues, friends, and followers to report the impersonation on their behalf, potentially expediting the resolution.

TechCrunch reached out to X for comment regarding the extent of bot users on their platform, the ongoing issue, and any measures being taken to combat it. Unfortunately, X did not respond at the time of publishing this article.

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