A verified disappointment: how Twitter handles government accounts

So I just finished sitting in on the “First thing we do, let’s friend all the lawyers” panel at Gov 2.0 Expo, featuring Elizabeth Hochberg and Hope O’Keefe, lawyers for GSA and the Library of Congress, respectively. The session was pointed out in my “hidden gems” post last week, and I thought both did a good job explaining why working up front with your legal team on new social/government 2.0 projects can actually make life easier in the long run (validated by folks like NIH’s David Hale who tweeted about how helpful teaming with his legal team was when launching Pillbox).

During the presentation, O’Keefe made reference to Twitter’s verification system, which was of interest given my previous posts here and here on how woeful Twitter’s efforts to verify government agencies are. Heck, just two days ago I tweeted that a month had passed since Twitter donated its archive to the Library, and still no verification for the LoC’s Twitter ID. Checking out @librarycongress today, however, revealed they are now one of the lucky gov agencies to have their account verified.

So after the session ended I asked O’Keefe what took so long to get the account verified. She replied that the Library hadn’t asked for verification until just a couple of days ago and that the two events (the donation and verification) weren’t really related. She also noted that the verification process is really in place to prevent spoofing, and until late, that hadn’t been an issue the Library was contending with, so they hadn’t made a verification request until now.

Despite a great deal of expertise in the area, I think O’Keefe largely missed the point I was trying to make. First, every agency should have Twitter verification submission as part of their best practice when setting up an ID (and their legal team should provide that counsel).  You don’t wait until you have spoofing problems crop up, you address it proactively. Second, it’s hard to believe that despite the big media push around the donation of Twitter’s archive to the Library that not a single person at Twitter or at the LoC (either communications, legal or risk shops) thought about asking to get the Library’s official Twitter ID verified beforehand, or at least quickly after the fact. That again, would seem to be best practice, especially given the archive announcement was first made via the LoC Twitter account and it appeared to be as much of an official channel as their blog post or press release about the donation was.

What’s most disappointing, however, is that there seems no rhyme nor reason as to which government agencies get their verification request handled and at what pace. O’Keefe indicated the LoC just submitted and was verified in a matter of two days. Meanwhile @USAirForce has been trying to get someone at Twitter to verify its account since January. Even more ironic, Twitter uses a government account, @CDCEmergency, to illustrate “what is a verified account” on their help page. While it’s great to see @LibraryCongress get verified, I still think it’s time for the service to step up it’s efforts in verifying government accounts.

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  • http://adrielhampton.com Adriel Hampton

    I don’t want to defend sloppy service, but on the other hand, this is a service Twitter should probably be charging $ for on accounts that are not facing spoofing problems. The instructions page is very clear that it is a limited beta that Twitter does not have the staff resources to support on a wide scale. Government Twitter account are “official” on an “unofficial” network in the first place.

    • http://GovTwit.com Steve Lunceford

      Good points, Adriel. Jesse Wilkins made similar points last time this topic came up as well. I guess it’s the willy nilly way that gov requests seem to be handled that’s bothersome (for instance, why did @librarycongress get fairly immediate response once they submit when @USAirForce (which has had impersonation issues) hasn’t been ablet to get an answer for five months?

      All the more reason agencies should have their official social media IDs listed and easy to find on their web sites (many do, but many still do not).

  • http://adrielhampton.com Adriel Hampton

    Yeah, I think the kicker is that USAF is having issues. I bet you can get service if you know someone from Twitter, which is one of the problems with some of the Web 2.0 companies. They are cool and hip, but also unpredictable in their business practices.
    Agree that agencies should link their official social media profiles from their Web pages.

  • http://twitter.com/ariherzog Ari Herzog

    I see that @FBIPressOffice is verified, but @USDAgov is not. Perhaps someone would like to compile which accounts are verified and which are not; is verification an API entry for calling the Twitter database for such a list?

    (On a sidenote, can you please add a plugin or script to subscribe to subsequent comments here? If someone responds, I’ll never know.)

    • http://GovTwit.com Steve Lunceford

      Thanks Ari; I’ll look into how to get a plug-in for subscribing to comments…

  • http://GovTwit.com Steve Lunceford

    UPDATE: Twitter’s VP of communications, Sean Garret, says they are aware of the issue around government account verification, and are working on it…


  • http://twitter.com/ariherzog Ari Herzog

    Testing this checkbox if someone cares to reply.

  • http://lostonroute66.com David Hale

    One issue I have with inconsistencies for Verified accounts is that, to the public, they only see certain gov accounts verified, others unverified. However, they all say “official account of the US…” We need to better communicate the situation to citizens.

  • http://GovTwit.com Steve Lunceford

    @LawLibCongress now verified as well: http://twitter.com/atweber/statuses/14940113599

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