Twitter briefly verified a fake Cormac McCarthy account

The mistake highlights some flaws in Twitter’s verification process.

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The Road author Cormac McCarthy isn’t tweeting jokes about Pete Buttigieg, the secretary of transportation, or Tron using the handle @CormacMcCrthy. But a member of Twitter’s verification team mistakenly believed the account was the real deal and slapped a vaunted blue tick onto it.

The account, which was created in 2018 and has almost 50,000 followers, was briefly marked as a verified user, even though it doesn’t belong to McCarthy. According to the 88-year-old author’s agent and publisher, McCarthy has never joined Twitter.

“The account referenced was verified by mistake and that has since been reversed,” Twitter told The Guardian. “The account will also be required to adhere to Twitter’s parody, news feed, commentary, and fan account policy.” Accounts that have to abide by the rules of that policy aren’t eligible to become verified.

The company didn’t explain how the blunder occurred. Those who apply for a verification badge are supposed to provide evidence that they're the genuine article, such as by providing a copy of government ID or an official website that links to the handle. The holder of the phony McCarthy account evidently did neither of those. The Guardian suggests Twitter may have proactively verified the account following a viral tweet about engagement.

Twitter has been flooded with verification requests in recent months. It reopened public applications for the blue tick in May, three and a half years after it put the program on hold to reassess how it handles verifications, though it's evident there are still some hiccups. It briefly paused applications after eight days due to the large volume of requests. Twitter is still in the process of rolling out the application link to all accounts.