When the CEO of News Corporation (NSDQ: NWS), Rupert Murdoch, joined Twitter a few days ago as an official, verified account, endorsed even by Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, some people didn’t believe that it was really him (it is). Today came the followup that proves why seeing is not always believing: an account allegedly penned by his wife, Wendi Deng Murdoch, and also verified (if briefly), is a fake after all.
Twitter has contacted us with a clear clarification of the authenticity of the account: “We don’t comment on our verification process but can confirm that the @wendi_deng account was mistakenly verified for a short period of time. We apologize for the confusion this caused,” a spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement.
A News International spokesperson, meanwhile, also got in touch to both confirm Wendi’s non-authenticity and to confirm that RupertMurdoch is indeed him. “We can confirm @rupertmurdoch is genuine. Wendi_Deng is a fake,” she wrote.
But given that both could have the power to influence a lot of opinion, and are both related to a publicly-traded company, the situation opens up a can of worms as to how “real” and “fake” people are able to broadcast their musings on a site like Twitter. At this time of writing, Rupert’s account has 90,379 followers, while Wendi’s has 9,665 (down from over 10,000 earlier today before news broke of it being fake.)
We have contacted Twitter to explain to us how it verifies accounts, and whether it has any specific rules about how “spoofs” are supposed to portray themselves on the site.
Update: It has so far provided us with links to its “Impersonation Policy” and its “Parody, Commentary and Fan Accounts Policy“. Essentially, these lay out Twitter’s basic support of spoof accounts, as long as they are indicated as such. Those that pretend to be otherwise are violating the policies and can be potentially suspended.
Update 2: Twitter has declined to comment on its process for verifying identities on the site. @Wendi_Deng has, meanwhile, now added “spoof” to the profile, along with “Verifiably not @rupertmurdoch’s wife. Unless you’re Twitter. Or News International.”
When asked if Twitter ordered the changes or if the account holder (a British man, it turns out) made them himself, he told us, “Myself, upon my own advice. No one from Twitter has been in touch about anything.” The Guardian, which first reported the male identity, also deleted their original earlier story that announced the account as real. [original post continues below]
“Wendi” — who
could be is UK-based, judging by some of her spelling (analysing instead of analyzing) and turns of phrase — said on Twitter that she was never contacted by the social network to verify if she was who she claimed to be, before Twitter verified her account with its blue ticking system.
One journalist, Ross Hawkins of the BBC, even said he had a confirmation from News International that the account was authentic. Today, he noted that the News International spokesperson contacted him to make the correction.
For those sleuthing around for clues to authenticity, it would have been confusing to look at who each of the accounts were following.
Wendi followed the spoof account “RupertMurdochPR” — surely a sign she, too, is a spoof? Yet Rupert Murdoch also follows an account purportedly from Google’s CEO “Larry Page,” but is not likely him.
Both @RupertMurdoch and @Wendi_Deng are written with a kind of casual irreverence, which on one hand made them appear real, but on the other seemed just too offhand to be taken seriously. With little known of either beyond their public personas, and very public appearances this past summer around the phone hacking scandal in the UK, reading for a “real voice” would have been all the more difficult.