Are you who you say you are when using social networks? Many of us get some of these random friend requests or follows on sites like Twitter and Facebook and to add complexity to it, how can we easily tell people apart when often the same names are being used? If you’re the slight bit famous in your circle or industry, the odds of you having impostors goes up significantly — just ask CrunchFund’s MG Seigler, Michael Arrington, TechCrunch’s Alexia Tsotsis, and Ben Parr, for starters–all have people impersonating them online. Social networks have slowly, but surely adopted ways to help offer people peace of mind that who they’re interacting with are who they say they are.
Twitter was one of the first popular social networks to implement a verified account program and established some strict criteria in order for people to be credentialed. Google+ was the next one to offer this, but at a much faster rate than Twitter. The only major service that stalled was Facebook…until now. TechCrunch’s Josh Constine is reporting that tomorrow, Facebook will allow prominent public figures the ability to verify their account and display a preferred pseudonym instead of their birth name. As a result, by giving this information, Facebook will place these accounts in their “People To Subscribe To” feature list.
You might be wondering why is this such a big deal? Well according to Facebook’s policy, there’s specifically a section that covers registration and account security. Specifically, users are not allowed to provide any false personal information, meaning that if someone like The Rock signed up as Dwayne Johnson, but changed his username to The Rock, it would be in violation of this policy and his account, along with his millions (and millions) of Facebook friends would be disconnected. Famous author Salman Rushdie recently came under fire from Facebook for this. Turns out that Facebook deactivated (not deleted–deactivated means it’ll be temporarily offline) his account because his passport has him as Ahmed Rushdie, but everyone else recognizes him as Salman Rushdie.
This new verified policy would be helpful for celebrities eager to want to grow their communities on Facebook, but don’t want to have people follow them using their real name–it doesn’t have true star power behind it and wouldn’t make sense from a branding/marketing standpoint, either…would you want to follow Stefani Germanotta on Facebook? Would you even recognize WHO that was? Well that’s Lady Gaga’s real name, but chances are that you wouldn’t have known that. Facebook’s verified account program will allow Lady Gaga to keep her profile registered as Stefani Germanotta, but would allow her to have her name displayed as Lady Gaga. Plus, if you happen to be one of the lucky people who sent a friend request to your celebrity and they accept or you want to subscribe to their updates, wouldn’t it be helpful to have some way to make sure that you’re talking to the right person instead of someone who could be a spammer or just on a phishing expedition?
TechCrunch is also reporting that unlike the verification badge that you get with Twitter and also with Google+, Facebook will not be displaying anything like that on your profile. In addition, there’s no way for people to volunteer to have their accounts be verified. It’s definitely not similar to the developer or email verification system either. Mr. Constine is correct in saying that by not having any sort of verification badge prominently displayed will basically offer up no added value for the celebrity to use Facebook, except that the service won’t terminate their profile. For now, I’m sure that even if you have a verified account, there will still be plenty of impostors out there on Facebook that will still survive until they get deleted–and that could be a while.
This is a decent attempt by Facebook to recognize that some prominent people who recognize the potential of the site want to use their service. However, by simply having the celebrity give more information to the service just makes it seem a waste of time. If they get their account booted, then it looks bad on Facebook. Or, the celebrity could instead set up a fan page–still business gets done on Facebook, but is it to their advantage? Wouldn’t it be better to simply get them to create a profile page instead of a fan page so that the service can get some more data/information and set up a new profile? I think that would be better than just creating a page where existing Facebook users can go to view information. Plus, with the new subscribe feature, wouldn’t that just be consolidating the fan page and profile page in one? C’mon Facebook…think better about how this verified account program could be run!
Let’s hope that this verified account program works out for the best…but I think in the short term, we’re going to see some famous people upset that their accounts just got terminated. In the meantime, here’s a screenshot that TechCrunch has about the verification process: