The Washington Post calls the British man behind the spoof Twitter account @Wendi_Deng “a savvy trickster,” and had he been trying to fool the national news media, that would be true. But he wasn’t. He was simply the beneficiary of corporate incompetence.
For reasons that remain unclear, Twitter verified the account, and a spokesperson for News International confirmed to The Guardian that the account was authentic. But the “savvy trickster” behind @Wendi_Deng hasn’t a clue how it happened. As he explained to The Guardian:
When Twitter verified it, I was completely and utterly shocked. A little nervous too, if I’m honest, about what had happened and whether it had all gone too far. I just couldn’t believe they would have verified such a high profile account without checking it out, but I absolutely received no communication from Twitter to the email address I used to register.
If that’s their security process for high profile users, then I do think they need to rethink it urgently. On their help pages they say, interestingly, that the “verified account” system is no longer in operation, and yet here it was being used for Rupert Murdoch and his wife without, in my/Wendi’s case, any checking whatsoever.
Twitter has acknowledged the error, but the San Francisco-based company declined to comment further on how it was made, or give any information on how accounts achieve verification status.