“The @BarackObama Twitter handle is maintained by OFA [Organizing For Action], that is the political organization that was the offshoot of the campaign,” Earnest told Jonathan Karl of ABC News, who asked whether the president reads or approves his tweets. “And that is a Twitter handle that is maintained independent of the White House.”
I read these words this morning during my daily “what’s up in the world” scan of the headlines.
Aside from the implications of carelessness by our current Executive Branch, I wonder if it’s fair that Twitter maintain the certifications for the President’s twitter account. The “verified account status” is a social cue to social media users that if the actual person implied to own the account doesn’t personally maintain it, they at the very least endorse and agree with the content on this account.
It’s clear from the official statement (and other comments to the press) that the @BarackObama twitter account isn’t technically even owned by the president, but is the “brand account” for the Organizing for America SuperPAC.
Should this account be verified? If this was Miley Cyrus’s verified account, let’s say, and she said some things that were off message for her via the social media channel (let’s say she made a social faux pas, something homophobic or racist). If she came out in the media the day after and claimed that her manager hired a PR or marketing firm to run her account with no oversight or buy in from her, could or should Twitter maintain the “verified account” status?
Keep in mind that we’re not talking about minimal or limited oversight, as is the case with some social media known-quantities like George Takei or Cali Lewis, who will employ “ghost tweeters” to assist them in keeping their accounts full of fresh content while they travel. In most cases, they treat these accounts like editorial operations, where they have veto and oversight of the content going out. In our fictional Miley Cyrus (and real-life President Obama) example, the personalities of the account no longer have any connection to the actual account.
So given that, is it fair or accurate to call these accounts “verified” any longer?
Many years ago, now, Twitter made the decision to position itself no longer as a platform, but as a crowd-sourced content site. They make significant loads of cash from selling advertising against their data, as well as re-selling the data itself to other for-profit entities.
No sane person would hold Twitter responsible for every errant tweet on the system, but for the user accounts where there is implied endorsement by the company that the account is legitimate, what level of culpability does Twitter hold in maintaining the accuracy of their raft of “verified accounts”? Should Twitter be actively policing and re-verifying to prevent data-rot, or is once enough?