Facebook, with its over 37.7 million users in Africa, had until recently stayed away from verifying the identity of high profile users, unlike Twitter that provides an indisputable way of identifying VIPs through the blue ‘Verified’ badge. Impersonation as a result has long been an issue of concern.
As if taking cue, Facebook has finally unveiled a way for the most subscribed to people to manually verify their identities by uploading a copy of their official documents (government-issued IDs). Users cannot apply for a verification themselves though, as it can be only initiated by Facebook.
Less high profile users have come out to publicly report cases of their impersonation on Facebook. The introduction of the verification feature will do good to discourage the vice and help users to find people easily, though no ‘verified button’ will be displayed alongside the Facebook Timeline like on Twitter and Google+.
However, to impersonate a person on Facebook all you need is an unregistered email address which sometimes isn’t all that necessary since unlike other services, Facebook will allow you to interact without verifying your email address. All you need then to pass as the person you have impersonated, are a few “likes” from equally high profile users.
Not so long ago, Prof. Anyang’ Nyong’o a Senior Minister in the Kenya Government came out to publicly protest the hijacking of his Facebook profile and willfully stated his ability to manage his social profile. Unfortunately, the Minister is only one among thousands of politicians who have to contend with regular identity issues on popular social media sites.
Nicknames. Along with the introduction of the verified accounts is the addition of a feature that will allow the verified users to assign a nickname or pseudonym to their birth names. Most media personalities especially celebrities are known to make use of designate names.
As an illustration, Kenyan celebrity and entertainer Jua Cali (Paul Julius Nunda) who has 61,927 million likes will be able to display both his real (Paul Julius Nunda) and designate (Jua Cali ) name on his Facebook Timeline.
As an incentive the verified users will also gain priority on the subscriber suggestion list that appears to users on the sides.
Few people argue that Facebook is becoming more like Twitter. However, standard features like the unique authorization and tagging of high profile user accounts need to be a benchmark for all social media applications.