Elon Musk wants to “validate all real humans” on Twitter. This is what that could mean 2022-04-28 13:02:43


This vague proposal is vague enough to keep people guessing about what Musk has in mind but specific enough that it presents several potential paths as he looks to shape Twitter further to his liking.

For example, Musk may seek to request real names on accounts. Or it may continue to allow aliases but requires a photo ID, or integrate with third-party services where users are already known.

Depending on the outcome, the plan could have major ramifications for hundreds of millions of Twitter users.

Musk’s drive to “authenticate” Twitter users stems from one of his biggest annoyances with the platform: spam accounts, particularly those that drive cryptocurrency scams. It’s often not hard to find these accounts lurking in responses to Musk’s tweets; Many even tried to trade his fame and lure the unsuspecting by impersonating him.

It didn’t help summer 2020Musk’s verified account was affected by a widespread Twitter hack that led to users including former President Barack Obama and Kanye West inadvertently posting a bitcoin scam. Cryptocurrency spam bots, owned by Musk She saidrepresents the “single most annoying problem” with Twitter.
After Elon Musk takes over, Twitter leadership is likely to undergo changes

Musk’s diagnosis may reflect the experiences of a very specific type of user, but it so happens that this user will soon control the design of the platform. As part of his solution to fight crypto bots, Musk wants to make it easier to separate real accounts from fake accounts under his proposal to “certify all real humans.”

If the goal is to ensure that every account is linked to a person of flesh and blood, the platform will need some way to verify that it is real. One possibility is to expand Twitter’s existing verification program. Currently, to Get a blue check On their account, users are required to provide a link to an official website they belong to, an official email address or a government-issued identification form. Musk may stop asking for identification but ask users to use their real names.
It can explore other ways as well, such as linking accounts to credit cards or relying more on them captcha The defeat of bots, said Gillian York, director of international freedom of expression at the digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation. (CAPTCHAs are not a panacea; as bots become more complex, so should CAPTCHAs. more and more difficult man to solve what could be described as a technological arms race.)

Whatever method he chooses, York and other experts said Musk will likely face a set of challenges that complicate his plan, which fall into two main categories: access and privacy.

Access is about ensuring that all people who want to use Twitter have access to the platform. With a system that links accounts to credit cards, for example, York said Twitter could risk excluding everyone who doesn’t have it. They may be too young to have a credit card or have poor credit and cannot be approved. Perhaps they don’t want to trade their credit card transactions with data brokers or just prefer to use cash for cultural reasons. York said that linking the endorsement to consumer credit “excludes millions of people”.

Then there is the privacy issue. While many users may feel they have nothing to hide, a system that forces users to provide their personally identifiable information creates a single point of failure. Not only will more users have to trust Twitter not to misuse their personal information, but Twitter itself will become a much larger target for repressive governments (which may use legal demands to force Twitter to hand over information) or cybercriminals motivated by identity theft. The cybercriminals are said to have pretended to be real law enforcement agents Fraudulent government order service technology company data. Twitter can promise to delete the logs, but it will only mitigate the risks it has created for itself.

The privacy issue is particularly worrying for human rights groups, said Natalia Krapeva, a lawyer with the digital rights group Access Now, “particularly for people in countries like Russia and others where individuals are severely persecuted for criticizing the government or covering important political events such as protests, corruption or war.” in Ukraine “.

Even real name politics can be tricky. Facebook has some experience with this; The company had to Make changes to its name policy in 2015 after critics pointed out that victims of abuse and other vulnerable groups had good reasons to use pseudonyms. The changes to Facebook raised the level of false name reporting and allowed users to provide reasons for the company to avoid using their real names.

This indicates how complicated it can be to translate a seemingly simple principle like “befriend all real humans” into a functional product feature. The issue is not the goal or the motive. is that humans are complex creatures with personal circumstances that rarely fit neatly into boxes.

York said that after years of trial and error, tech platforms have already developed important lessons about user authentication that could benefit Musk.

“If he only meant things like CAPTCHA, I think he would come as a surprise,” York said. “He’s talked a lot about how to get rid of bots, but Twitter has been trying to do that for years and I think they’ll soon realize that it’s not easy to solve the problem.”