Published on May 1st, 2023 📆 | 8572 Views ⚑0
Is that Twitter account real? 4 ways to help you spot fake accounts.
Blue checkmarks are now gone from previously "verified" people on Twitter – such as journalists, musicians, actors, sports celebs, and other high-profile tweeters – unless those users cough up $8/month (or $84/year) for a Twitter Blue subscription.
Yet, despite drama including massive layoffs at the company, an alleged rise in hate speech and misinformation, prompting advertisers to pull out, Twitter remains the go-to for tens of millions of Americans, especially for breaking news and politics.
With more than 368 million daily active users worldwide, the social platform remains one of the most popular.
Many users are pushing back publicly against paying for this little white tick in a blue circle. So how do you know if the person or organization you're following (or chatting with) on Twitter is legit or fake?
Fortunately, there are some easy ways to tell if they're the real deal.
Why is Twitter removing blue check marks?
Musk made good on his promise to take away "legacy" blue checkmarks, Twitter's system for verifying the identity of notable accounts (such as a person, brand, or entity), so other Twitter users know they're reading and potentially interacting with the real person (or organization).
That is, unless the account owner pays for Twitter Blue, which also lets users write longer tweets and post longer videos, edit tweets, see fewer ads, and additional benefits. Companies can opt to pay for a gold checkmark ($1000/month), while government officials get a gray checkmark for free (like the POTUS account).
Countless Twitter users, especially those who lost the blue checkmark, complained publicly on Twitter about the change. Even celebrities like actor William Shatner and author Steven King publicly refused to pay out of principle.
Musk decided to pay for some celebrities to keep the blue checkmark, while others (who may not be able to afford the subscription) are now unverified and companies now have the option to pay for a gold checkmark ($1000/month), while government officials get a gray checkmark for free (like the POTUS account).
While advertisements remain the biggest revenue stream on Twitter, it's clear Musk is looking to bolster Twitter's subscription business, plus he says it's a way to weed out impersonator and "bot" accounts.
What is the difference between a blue check and a gold check on Twitter?
If the user has a blue check, they've been verified by Twitter. As outlined in the company's list of "eligibility criteria," a verified account must have a display name and profile photo, a confirmed phone number, and the account must be older than 30 days upon subscription and must be "active."
Note: people with checkmarks can't change their handles (@___ ) or else it will result in a temporary loss of the badge until Twitter decides if it met the eligibility criteria again. If the account owner has a gold check (corporation) or gray check (government official) then they've been verified too.
How can you tell if a Twitter account is real?
Look at the handle and bio: Twitter users, even famous ones, often have a different Twitter name than their handle. LeBron James, for example, has the Twitter handle @KingJames opposed to @LebronJames, which is an advertising and marketing firm (not to mention, "King James" could also be James Cameron, James Corden, James Spader, and so on).
"Verified" users can't change their handle, but it's easy to change your Twitter profile name.
Look for other info, such as what's on the Twitter user's bio summary, which could also say if it's a "parody" or "fan" account. And if there is no bio or one filled with spelling and grammatical mistakes, or a broken URL to a website, that's suspect, too.
What is the follower count? Especially when it comes to following news organizations and celebrities, it's easy to tell if it's a phony account if the number of followers is next to nothing. Jack Black, for example, hasn’t paid for the blue checkmark, but since his account has more than 578,000 followers, you can surmise it's really the comedic actor and musician.
On the flip side, you might find Bill Gates III on Twitter, with the handle @BillGates2810 – yes, even with the actual photo of the Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist – but this imposter account only has 5 followers, and so you know it's not really *the* Bill Gates III, which has 62.5 million followers on his (verified) Twitter profile.
Look at the tweets: If you're trying to determine if an account is phony or not, look at their tweets and your Spidey sense should start tinging if there are several repetitive (or duplicate) tweets, if they're fraught with spelling and grammatical errors, or if there are too few or too many tweets (some bots could have hundreds of thousands of tweets, which is dubious).
On a related note, if most tweets are all @replies with the same text, you have also likely discovered a bot account.
Check for a missing photo or stock photo: While fake accounts could have a photo, like the above-mentioned Bill Gates example, be suspicious if whom you're following doesn't have a photo at all, which is a sign of a bot account, or lazy imposter. In other instances, the fake account may use a stock image or profile photo used on other accounts (pro tip: use Google to find out if a profile image has been used by others).
A quick glance at their followers, posts, bio, and actual Twitter handle could easily confirm or dispel if the person is who they claim to be.
Follow Marc on Twitter for his “Tech Tip of the Day” posts: @marc_saltzman. Email him or subscribe to his Tech It Out podcast.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.