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Twitter verified a fake account in the Norwegian government, but it’s not Twitter’s fault

Twitter verified a fake account in the Norwegian government, but it’s not Twitter’s fault

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A fake account tricked the Prime Minister’s Office

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Twitter verified a fake account for Norway’s new Minister of Finance, but apparently, it’s not Twitter’s fault. As first reported by Norwegian tech site NRKbeta, the Prime Minister’s Office and Norway’s Security Authority (NSM) mistakenly passed along a fake account for verification.

Norway’s Minister of Finance, Trygve Slagsvold Vedum, has never had a Twitter account. The report states that several fake accounts impersonating Vedum cropped up since he was elected into office this September, so much so that the Ministry of Finance sent out a tweet last month warning that the Minister of Finance doesn’t actually have an account. The translated tweet reads, “We want to inform that Minister of Finance Trygve Slagsvold Vedum does not have private Twitter. Accounts that appear in his name are therefore fake and will be reported.”

What was different about this most recent fake account, though, was that it was granted a blue checkmark by Twitter. According to NRKbeta, Vedum’s fake account sent out tweets that oppose his political party’s policies, potentially ruffling some feathers in the political sphere. However, Twitter doesn’t appear to be responsible for the mistake — NRKbeta found that the Prime Minister’s Office and the NSM were at fault.

“Unfortunately, there was an error in the reporting that caused a fake account to be verified,” Anne Kristin Hjuske, the head of communications at the Prime Minister’s Office told NRKbeta. “The account has now been removed and we have made sure that no more fake accounts have been verified. Furthermore, we are currently reviewing our reporting routines to ensure that this does not happen again.”

“It seems somebody at the Prime Minister’s Office was fooled by the account”

The Prime Minister’s Office and NSM were responsible for verifying politicians’ social media accounts following the recent election. The fake account apparently tricked both organizations, got sent along to Twitter, and passed.

“Out of nowhere one of these fake accounts shows up verified,” Ståle Grut, the journalist behind the NRKbeta article told The Verge. “It seems somebody at the Prime Minister's Office coordinating the verification was fooled by the account, and it ended up being sent to Twitter along with the other newly appointed ministers who are also now all verified.”

Twitter recently revamped its verification process to specifically prevent the creation of fake accounts. It reopened its verification process this past May after nearly four years of overhauling the system, and later briefly put it on pause after mistakenly verifying several phony accounts.

But it seems that no matter how fancy Twitter makes its verification process, it still can’t protect against plain old human error. It remains unclear whether Twitter typically delegates its verification process to outside authorities. If it does, that’s especially concerning for accounts that belong to high-profile government officials, and this mishap is a case in point. The Verge reached out to Twitter with a request for comment but didn’t immediately hear back.

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