Twitter to Target Fake Pages

Twitter is experimenting with a service to verify the authenticity of accounts of high-profile users. The move comes after the microblogging service was sued by St. Louis Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa, saying someone posted comments under his name on a fake Twitter page.

Twitter officials are working on a way to verify users of the microblogging service are who they say they are.

In a blog post, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone said the company is experimenting in summer 2009 with a beta preview of a service it is calling, "Verified Accounts." Details about the service were scarce, but an account that meets the certification standards will apparently have a special seal to that effect.

"The experiment will begin with public officials, public agencies, famous artists, athletes and other well-known individuals at risk of impersonation," Stone wrote in a post. "We hope to verify more accounts in the futur,e but due to the resources required, verification will begin only with a small set."

The presence of the seal on some accounts should not be taken as a sign that those without the seal are fraudulent, he added.

"When we do start testing Account Verification, we will be sure to provide ample methods for feedback," Stone wrote. "Initially, verification will not be tested with businesses. However, we do see an opportunity in that arena so we'll keep you posted when we have something to share."

The move appears to have been triggered by a lawsuit filed by St Louis Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa. In the lawsuit, (PDF) La Russa claimed an unauthorized Twitter page that used his name made light of drunk driving as well as the deaths of former Cardinals players Josh Hancock and Darryl Kile. Hancock died in a drunk driving accident in 2007, while Kile died of a heart ailment in his hotel room in Chicago in 2002.

The complaint features a number of Tweets as well as a screenshot declaring: "Hey There! TonyLaRussa (sic) is using Twitter." The company said it took action against the account as soon as it was notified. Though La Russa reportedly told the Wall Street Journal on June 5 that the case had been settled, Twitter called any such statements "erroneous."

"Twitter has not settled, nor do we plan to settle or pay," Stone wrote in his post. "With due respect to the man and his notable work, Mr. La Russa's lawsuit was an unnecessary waste of judicial resources bordering on frivolous. Twitter's Terms of Service are fair and we believe will be upheld in a court that will ultimately dismiss Mr. La Russa's lawsuit."