Murdoch's 'wife' fools Twitter: If its verification process is secret, how can we trust it?

Rupert Murdoch's wife is not on Twitter, the company confirmed today. But what it did not detail is how the account became 'verified', a system that goes to the very heart of Twitter.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

It's easy to say that I was suspicious all along -- I was -- but now the truth is out. Wendi Deng Murdoch is not on Twitter as previously thought, unlike her husband who most certainly is.

It turns out that @Wendi_Deng is in fact a British male living in London, according to Guardian journalist Josh Halliday, who outed the fake account even before the account holder came clean.

A string of failures, from the media to Twitter, and even Rupert Murdoch's own News Corporation, it seems many were duped by the fake account.

Who fared worse? The person who set up the fake account in the name of Rupert Murdoch's wife, the media for on the most part believing it, or Twitter for verifying the account when it was never confirmed to be her in the first place?


Arguably Twitter was left the most bruised after it admitted that: "the @Wendi_Deng account was mistakenly verified for a short period of time", with doubts cast on the microblogging service's verification process.

For a few hours, the account came along with a verified 'tick' alongside its user's name; indicating that some process had been fulfilled between Twitter and the user, to confirm that it was in fact Murdoch's wife.

(Granted, HM The Queen is not really on Twitter, but 'her' Twitter stream is -- even when it is littered with "gin o'clock" messages -- is nevertheless the epitome of hilarious.)

But @Wendi_Deng appears just as confused as the rest of the world watching. In a tweet a short time ago, the masked user appeared "open" to speak to Twitter regarding the mistaken verification of the account.

So what led to this less-than-almighty stuff-up?

The New York Times was told by a News International spokesperson (apparently with a "long suffering" sigh): "Oh yes", in that Rupert Murdoch was in fact tweeting.

Interestingly, the BBC last night received a confirmation that Wendi Deng Murdoch was also tweeting, which was later backtracked by political correspondent Ross Hawkins earlier today, stating that "[the spokesperson] was wrong".

Later, a News International spokesperson for the British arm of the global News Corporation company said that the previous confirmation was "unintentional and mistaken".

While Twitter's verification process is no longer open for applications, the company continues to verify: "some trust sources, such as our advertisers and partners". But Twitter refused to comment on its verification process and how it processes requests.

At this point in time, nothing is entirely clear. The only thing that is should be that Wendi Deng Murdoch is not on Twitter, unlike her husband who is.

How Twitter verified the account remains a mystery. Either it spoke directly to a misinformed News International spokesperson who then confirmed it, or it simply went by news reports. Perhaps it was an overzealous intern trying to jump ahead of the game?

Ironically, Twitter is all about being an 'open' network. While it agrees that the "tweets must flow" in response to the Arab Spring revolutions, and will even break a subpoena on occasion, the company's own policies on how it polices the network it has built up remain private.

Every company needs to have its secrets, sure. But seeing as how Twitter's verification system is at the heart of proving who is really who on the network, it should only be right that the end users know what the process is.

Perhaps the biggest clue all along was that @rupertmurdoch was not following his own 'wife'.

Image source: Twitter.


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