Facebook Verifies Federal Accounts, Distinguishing Them From Copies and Fakes

GSA via Facebook

First social media platform to do so using a new federal API.

A little blue check mark can be a very big deal for citizens scanning popular social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter in search of information from legitimate federal accounts.

The icon verifies a federal social media account as a legitimate government account and provider of information and services, a powerful assurance given the propensity for fake social media accounts that spread misinformation.

Over the weekend, Facebook became the first social media platform to begin verifying all government accounts with a blue checkmark using the Federal Social Media Registry API –an application programming interface— legitimizing more than 1,000 federal accounts in short order.

The registry is the government’s official repository containing more than 3,000 social accounts from across the federal space, but a recent collaborative effort between the SocialGov Community, 18F and Data.gov has condensed what was once a time-consuming, confounding experience into essentially a single click of the mouse.

The API model makes things a heck of a lot easier for all parties, according to Justin Herman, federal social media program lead at the General Services Administration’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies.

“Traditionally, social media platforms verify accounts on a case-by-case basis working individually with agencies, an inconsistent process that confuses the digital citizen experience,” Herman said, announcing the news via blog post Monday. “We worked with innovators at 18F and Data.gov to improve delivery of the federal-wide registry API by creating a one-click export function that condenses the federalwide data Facebook needed into a shared service custom fit for their verification process.”

The fruits of the collaboration’s efforts are obvious.

The Central Intelligence Agency, for example, launched Facebook and Twitter platforms Friday, but without a verified social account, a user could search for the agency on Facebook and not have a clue which of several accounts was legitimate. These implications are magnified when one considers the importance social media platforms now play during emergencies, as users flock by the thousands to government accounts like the Federal Emergency Management Agency.