What Facebook, Instagram and Twitter Verification Means for You

Social media platforms have been battling bots, spam, hacks and impersonation for years. Now, Meta and Twitter have developed a new approach to solving the problem: passing the cost of better security to users.

Meta announced on February 19 that it will launch Meta Verified, a subscription service that offers additional verification, security and customer service features, for a price of $11.99 a month on the web and $14.99 on iOS . It is currently being tested in Australia and New Zealand. The process: users can sign up for the service, provide their ID to the government for screening and then if approved, they will get a blue badge and Meta will actively monitor against fake accounts and provide direct customer support.

“This new feature is about increasing the reliability and security of our services,” Meta CEO Mark Zuckerbeg wrote in an announcement on his Facebook page. This is similar to Elon Musk’s Twitter Blue service that was recently launched, which offers perks such as the blue verified check mark (a free feature reserved for the famous and famous) and the ability to edit your tweets, for $11 a month. It’s not just a blue checkmark that users pay for, but also a security feature that has become standard for various online accounts: from late March, non-Blue users can no longer access Twitter’s two-factor authentication through the text message system. . (If you do not disable the feature, you may be logged out of your account after March 20).

These services seem to target content creators, who have a growing following, who may want more security. But the average user is still vulnerable to hacking and impersonation. Nearly a fifth of teenagers and adults in the US experienced their social media accounts hacked in the first three months of 2022, according to a survey conducted by Deloitte. Half of respondents said they are concerned about online security breaches.

Cybersecurity experts worry that these paid features will create a two-tier system among social media users. “It’s like offering an optional lock on the front door of a new home for security,” said Peter Tran, chief information security officer at cybersecurity firm InferSight. modulate view of security so that it may have an upsell effect on their business model, which is very dangerous, because it can be rich and insecure. The pay-to-play schemes, said Tran, one of the “worst security decisions” he has ever seen.

Many users are equally dissatisfied with the decision to charge for the service. Facebook user Jason Waterfalls tweeted, “Making users pay for account verification and security services is like a car manufacturer charging more for seatbelts and airbags. Twitter, Instagram [and] Facebook needs to be better.” A Twitter user, Ramon Rivas II, tweeted, “So do I want to pay $15 a month for Twitter security?… No. Is that so? No. I might just get hacked and send everyone a virus at some point.”

Zuckerberg’s Meta claims to provide security to nearly 4 billion Facebook and Instagram users at a high cost. He responded to a user who criticized the choice to charge for the service with a comment that said, “Verifying government IDs and providing direct access to customer support for millions or billions people cost a lot of money. The subscription fee covers this and also wipes out how many people sign up so we can ensure the quality of our measurement.”

The Meta CEO also said that the company already provides some level of protection and support to all users. Meta says it has more than 35,000 employees worldwide who work to identify and remove more than 5 billion fake and cloned profiles that exist on the site each year.

The Twitter Help Center is currently asking that question impersonator accounts be reported through its help center. If the report is deemed valid, the impersonated account may be suspended from the platform. If a user hacked and cannot log into their account, Twitter asks the user to request a password reset or to contact their support team.

However, the security of these platforms remains a concern. Meta has a long history of bot accounts, as well as data privacy and security concerns, including the use of users’ personal data for broad ad targeting. Many users reported that their accounts were compromised and went through laborious processes to regain their access.

“If you can imagine from the perspective of the hacker or cyber criminal, this is absolutely fertile ground to start planning attacks,” Tran said.

Tran is not convinced that the government ID required for verification is secure enough. “The process is flawed because it requires a government ID at face value,” he said. Tran questions how Meta authenticates and stores ID information, highlighting these additional areas of security concern.

There is no guarantee that these programs will be popular, because users think twice when it comes to spending their money. Since Twitter Blue first launched in November, it has only gained 180,000 subscribers in the US, which accounts for only 0.2% of all Twitter users. Tran believes that the changes will ultimately lead to unsubscribed users interacting with these platforms less fully.

How to protect your account without paying

If you decide you don’t want to pay for Meta Verified, or Twitter Blue, you can try to protect yourself by having “strong security hygiene,” according to Tran. Simple steps you can take to limit the platform’s access to your information include disabling the application’s access to your camera, microphone and geo-location. To prevent hacking, you should create more complex passwords and Tran suggests rotating them every 90 days. However, some cybersecurity experts now advise against this practice. Tran urged users to be cautious about direct message communications and to be careful about clicking on links from users they don’t know. And if your account is compromised, be sure to report it to the platform to document the experience. Finally, consider diversifying your social media interactions, to avoid sharing an endless amount of information on just one platform.

Finally, Tran does not believe that users should take these steps for a safe experience on Facebook and Twitter. “The responsibility and responsibility of security and a reliable safe space must fall under these platforms.”

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Write to Mariah Espada and mariah.espada@time.com.

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