Account Verification on Social Media: User Perceptions and Paid Enrollment


Madelyne Xiao, Mona Wang, Anunay Kulshrestha, and Jonathan Mayer, Princeton University


We investigate how users perceive social media account verification, how those perceptions compare to platform practices, and what happens when a gap emerges. We use recent changes in Twitter's verification process as a natural experiment, where the meaning and types of verification indicators rapidly and significantly shift. The project consists of two components: a user survey and a measurement of verified Twitter accounts.

In the survey study, we ask a demographically representative sample of U.S. respondents (n = 299) about social media account verification requirements both in general and for particular platforms. We also ask about experiences with online information sources and digital literacy. More than half of respondents misunderstand Twitter's criteria for blue check account verification, and over 80% of respondents mis- understand Twitter's new gold and gray check verification indicators. Our analysis of survey responses suggests that people who are older or have lower digital literacy may be modestly more likely to misunderstand Twitter verification.

In the measurement study, we randomly sample 15 million English language tweets from October 2022. We obtain ac- count verification status for the associated accounts in Novem- ber 2022, just before Twitter's verification changes, and we collect verification status again in January 2022. The resulting longitudinal dataset of 2.85 million accounts enables us to characterize the accounts that gained and lost verification following Twitter's changes. We find that accounts posting conservative political content, exhibiting positive views about Elon Musk, and promoting cryptocurrencies disproportionately obtain blue check verification after Twitter's changes.

We close by offering recommendations for improving ac- count verification indicators and processes.

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@inproceedings {291158,
author = {Madelyne Xiao and Mona Wang and Anunay Kulshrestha and Jonathan Mayer},
title = {Account Verification on Social Media: User Perceptions and Paid Enrollment},
booktitle = {32nd USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security 23)},
year = {2023},
isbn = {978-1-939133-37-3},
address = {Anaheim, CA},
pages = {3099--3116},
url = {},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug

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