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This article was published on March 14, 2012

Twitter makes it easier to verify musicians, but what about the accounts that matter?

Twitter makes it easier to verify musicians, but what about the accounts that matter?

Don’t get me wrong, I love music quite a bit. In fact, I follow a few of my favorite bands and artists on Twitter. For the most part though, I don’t really get a lot of pressing or important information from those accounts. I consider it to be a novelty to see what Dave Matthews is tweeting but it doesn’t really make a huge difference in my life.

Twitter announced a partnership with metadata collector Gracenote today to make it easier to verify the authenticity of musicians. It appears that this “deal” is nothing more than Twitter offloading the pain in the ass that is verifying accounts. Since Gracenote has relationships with record labels and artists already, they have the database to dial someone up and verify their Twitter account.

But what about the accounts that really matter? It seems like Twitter has “solved” its verification problem for musicians, but what about other public figures that have interesting things to say? The problems is that anyone can set up a Twitter account. Recently, one knucklehead had everyone convinced that he was former Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre:

The funny thing is that this account suggests that everyone follow a “real” account which isn’t real at all. The problem is that Twitter is usually so late on verifying accounts, it’s a complete judgement call on whether to trust that someone is real or not. It’s definitely an issue given Twitter’s real-time appeal.

Since Twitter has turned over the responsibility for musician verification to Gracenote, why not bring in some other third-parties to do the verification for other verticals?

For example, The Associated Press could become the source to verify journalists and other news organizations and ESPN could become the source to verify athletes. Since more publications are using tweets as a source for stories, the need for prompt verification of accounts is absolutely necessary.

While the Gracenote partnership is a great first step, it’s an admission of falling behind by Twitter. The topic of who should be verified has been a discussion point since the company launched the feature in the first place. When you visit the account verification portion of Twitter’s support site, it’s pretty general:

What kinds of accounts get verified?

Verification is used to establish authenticity for accounts who deal with identity confusion regularly on Twitter. Verified Accounts must be public and actively tweeting.

That applies to pretty much everyone, however Twitter states on the same page that “This program is currently closed to the public. This means we are not able to accept public requests for verification.” That’s a broken system if I ever saw one.

Some accounts that are verified are obviously made so because the person had a personal relationship with someone at Twitter and they see the verification badge as a badge of honor. This lackadaisical approach to verification caused a public demand that Twitter couldn’t keep up with. So instead of fixing the problem internally, the company is passing along some of the load to someone else.

That’s fine, but lets get our act together for the accounts that really matter. It’s also time to re-think what verifying your identity on Twitter means entirely. If we use Twitter, we’re all “public figures” after all. Why not create a self-service system where we can verify our identities properly, so that there are less worries about trolls and people doing illegal things using the service? I guess that’s the idea behind Facebook though, where it’s not cool to have a alter-ego.

Being open to all and growing up to be a reputable source sounds like a problem I’d rather not handle, so good luck to Twitter with that. Remember though, we’re not all musicians, and I’m not going to learn how to play guitar just because someone starts impersonating me on Twitter.