Be Careful, Sports Fans: Twitter Blue Verification Might Dupe You

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November 9, 2022

Twitter’s daily use has hit “all-time highs,” according to new bluebird boss Elon Musk. The social media platform claims to have roughly 238 million users.

There are more than 7.8 billion people in the world, meaning less than 3% of the planet hangs out in the godforsaken hell hole. So, trying to get too worked up about anything that happens in the Twittersphere is a waste of time. It’s not necessarily an accurate representation of the world.

But it certainly can influence discourse and discussion, and media or word of mouth can take something viral on Twitter and turn it into headlines at the drop of a hat. And, as expected, a recent change in Twitter under Musk’s direction should have everyone — sports fans included — on high alert when it comes to deciphering reality from parody.

Musk’s primary objective since buying Twitter — as he tries to figure out how to turn a profit on his $44 billion investment — is Twitter Blue, a pay-for-play verified system. Users willing to pay $8 per month get a few more bells and whistles than the commoners not willing to fork over a couple of coffees per month in order to get a more addicting version of the app.

But the $8 fee also brings the ability to be “verified,” including the vaunted and oftentimes elusive blue checkmark next to your user name. Or at least it used to be elusive. The verified system typically allowed users and news gatherers to have a line of defense when it came to deciphering between news and, well, fake news.

However, now that people can literally buy the checkmark, it makes it easier to impersonate some of the more famous people on Twitter. That includes sports reporters, like ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who is just shy of 10 million Twitter followers.

And it took no time at all for someone to do just that. A “verified” Twitter account that joined the platform just this month went semi-viral Wednesday purporting to be the actual Schefter.

Among the stories fake Schefter “broke” were:

–The Raiders fired Josh McDaniels
–The Patriots signed Henry Ruggs (he’s been out of the league for a year, awaiting trial for felony counts of DUI resulting in death among other charges)
–Odell Beckham Jr. signed with the Cowboys

Again, literally, none of that happened.

There were more, too, from other accounts. A fake LeBron James account — with the blue checkmark and all — posted a tweet with James requesting a trade from the Lakers. Another “verified” account pretending to be Aroldis Chapman announced he had re-signed with the Yankees.

There certainly will be more. A lot more.

Twitter, or Musk, are making up the rules on the fly, saying it will permanently ban users who don’t make it clear they are parody. That’s not exactly black and white, of course. The only way to really tell the difference is to look at the actual Twitter handles. For instance, the account claiming to be @AdamSchefter was @AdamSchefterN0T. The Chapman account changed the lower-case L in his first name to an upper-case I. And the James account just changed the “S” at the end of his handle to a “Z.”

Seasoned Twitter users know what to look for when it comes to snuffing out the fakes, but that’s not going to stop tweets and accounts from going viral. As of 3:25 p.m. ET on Wednesday afternoon, the McDaniels tweet had more than 3,000 retweets or quote-tweets. The Chapman tweet had nearly 700.

The James account, however, had been suspended. It seems the only course of action, until once again changing regulations, is this game of whack-a-mole.

For now, be careful out there.

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Thumbnail photo via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports Images
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