Account Verification on Social Media: User Perceptions and Paid Enrollment

Madelyne Xiao, Mona Wang, Anunay Kulshrestha, Jonathan Mayer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

We investigate how users perceive social media account verification, how those perceptions compare to platform practices, and what happens when a gap emerges. We use recent changes in Twitter’s verification process as a natural experiment, where the meaning and types of verification indicators rapidly and significantly shift. The project consists of two components: a user survey and a measurement of verified Twitter accounts. In the survey study, we ask a demographically representative sample of U.S. respondents (n = 299) about social media account verification requirements both in general and for particular platforms. We also ask about experiences with online information sources and digital literacy. More than half of respondents misunderstand Twitter’s criteria for blue check account verification, and over 80% of respondents misunderstand Twitter’s new gold and gray check verification indicators. Our analysis of survey responses suggests that people who are older or have lower digital literacy may be modestly more likely to misunderstand Twitter verification. In the measurement study, we randomly sample 15 million English language tweets from October 2022. We obtain account verification status for the associated accounts in November 2022, just before Twitter’s verification changes, and we collect verification status again in January 2022. The resulting longitudinal dataset of 2.85 million accounts enables us to characterize the accounts that gained and lost verification following Twitter’s changes. We find that accounts posting conservative political content, exhibiting positive views about Elon Musk, and promoting cryptocurrencies disproportionately obtain blue check verification after Twitter’s changes. We close by offering recommendations for improving account verification indicators and processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication32nd USENIX Security Symposium, USENIX Security 2023
PublisherUSENIX Association
Pages3099-3116
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781713879497
StatePublished - 2023
Event32nd USENIX Security Symposium, USENIX Security 2023 - Anaheim, United States
Duration: Aug 9 2023Aug 11 2023

Publication series

Name32nd USENIX Security Symposium, USENIX Security 2023
Volume5

Conference

Conference32nd USENIX Security Symposium, USENIX Security 2023
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityAnaheim
Period8/9/238/11/23

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality

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