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.
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.”
Whatever method he chooses, York and other experts said Musk will likely face challenges that fall into two broad 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”.
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 “.
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.”