Account Verification on Social Media: User Perceptions and Paid Enrollment

by   Madelyne Xiao, et al.

We study the gap between user perceptions of social media verification indicators and their actual meaning, and the type of behavior that emerges when such a gap is present. We use recent changes to Twitter's verification process as a unique case study wherein the meaning of a verification indicator has rapidly shifted. The study consists of a U.S. demographically-representative survey of 300 respondents and quantitative and qualitative analyses of results, and an analysis of verified Twitter accounts sampled from a large-scale dataset of 15 million Tweets collected in October 2022. The survey addresses differences in user-perceived and actual requirements for verification marks on popular social media platforms, with a focus on evolving perceptions of verification marks on Twitter. We find that more than half of survey respondents misunderstood Twitter's criteria for assigning blue verification check marks to user accounts; more than 80 understand what differentiated blue check marks from gold and grey check marks. We also note interesting correlations between respondent age and perception of verification marks. From our qualitative analysis of verified user accounts, we find that cryptocurrency promotion accounts constitute significantly more Blue subscribers than our randomly sampled control dataset, indicating that a significant number of Blue users may be leveraging the confusion between legacy and Blue verification to promote their own commodities. Finally, we provide recommendations for improving verification indicators and processes on social media.


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