identity verification

Identity Verification for Social Media Platforms

Social media platforms are no longer just platforms to show off photographs from your holidays and get back in touch with classmates. 97% of Fortune 500 companies leverage social media platforms to connect with customers and run promotions.

On the positive side, social media platforms raise awareness, bring communities together and help small companies reach a wide audience with a limited budget. On the flip side, the evils of social media range from bullying and spreading fake news to impersonation and financial fraud.

Staying off all social media platforms is akin to hiding under a rock in the face of a flood. Instead, there’s a simple step that offers a sustainable solution – identity verification.

Identity verification for social media

According to the latest figures, there are 4.89 billion social media users. This doesn’t necessarily match the number of social media profiles. An individual can have multiple profiles, sometimes, even on the same platform. Then there are bots to consider. Identity verification implies ensuring that every social media profile has a real person behind it and that this person is who he/ she claims to be. It can also be used to verify the user’s age and thereby control access.

To verify accounts, account holders would need to provide personal details such as names, street addresses, telephone numbers, email address, date of birth, etc. This information would then be compared to data stored in third-party databases to verify and validate the same. As an additional security layer, identity verification could also include biometric and liveness checks.

Let’s look at some of the ways identity verification can protect users and improve their experience.

Lower the risk of impersonation and online fraud

A few years ago, over 900 children were fooled into believing that they were chatting with Justin Bieber on Facebook when they were really chatting with a 42- year old sex offender. It’s not just children, adults too have been defrauded by impersonator profiles on social media.

When fraudsters create fake brand profiles, they can use these to extract sensitive information from unsuspecting customers. In turn, this can be used to commit other kinds of fraud.

Insisting on identity verification before creating a profile can lower the risk of fraudsters creating profiles impersonating someone else.

Discourage cyber bullying

From nasty comments on photographs to receiving unsolicited messages cyber bullying is prevalent across all social media platforms. According to a recent survey, 42% of adolescents have been bullied on Instagram while 37% have faced bullying on Facebook. In the absence of identity verification, bullies can hide behind anonymous profiles.

However, if social media platforms were to verify profiles, such anonymity would not be possible. When cases of bullying emerge, it would become easier to trace the bully and report the actual abuser. This would also serve to discourage bullies and thus help keep such incidents from occurring.

Keep fake news from spreading

When people hide behind fake profiles, they cannot be held accountable for anything they say or do. This gives them the freedom to generate fake news. People with genuine accounts may be fooled by such posts and share them thereby unknowingly spreading fake news.

Sadly, a study found that false news travels faster than real news on Twitter. Differentiating between real and fake news can be difficult for the average social media user. Hence, efforts to fight fake news must focus on arresting the creators.

This is where identity verification again becomes important. Knowing that anything they post online can be traced back to them in real life will make people think twice before putting up a post.

Minimize bot accounts

Social media bots are programs that simulate human behaviour on social media platforms. They can act independently or congregate and act towards the same aim. With the rise of influencer marketing, many social media users buy bot followers to inflate their following.

It has been estimated that 5% of Facebook accounts, 15% of Twitter accounts and 45% of Instagram accounts are bot accounts. While using them to look popular online may not be anything to worry about, bot accounts can sway public opinion and affect real-life events.

Twitter bots are believed to be responsible for increasing votes for Donald Trump in the 2016 American presidential elections by 3.23%.

Identity verification would dramatically limit the number of bot accounts that could be created. While companies may still be able to use bots to act on their behalf for better customer service, using them for negative roles would become harder.

Control access to adult information

Given their innocence, safeguarding children online is of utmost importance. They need to be protected from cyber predators, bullies, internet scammers and more. Children must also be protected from adult content with a graphic violent or sexual nature as these can have a negative impact on their mental health.

Most social media platforms already use some form of age verification but this is not fool proof. In some cases, it is as little as manually entering the user’s date of birth. Identity verification would be the most reliable way of verifying user ages and thus controlling the information they have access to through social media sites.

Summing it up

As illustrated above, incorporating identity verification when operating social media accounts can have a significant impact on protecting users and giving them a positive online experience.

However, it has also been linked to concerns of how it could impact the freedom of speech especially in countries where whistleblowers use the anonymity of social media as a shield. This is probably one of the main reasons identity verification is making slow progress on social media.

A balance will need to be struck soon. After all, as the number of unverified social media users increases, so does the risk of fraud. Realistically speaking, it isn’t a question of whether identity verification for social media accounts will become a reality or not but rather a question of when this will happen.

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