GSA tool lets people verify genuine federal social media accounts

The General Services Administration's Social Media Registry is designed to allow agencies to manage their social media accounts while validating them for users worried that they might be fake.

Federal agencies need help tracking their social media accounts, and citizens need help verifying which government accounts are authentic. Now the General Services Administration has stepped in to address both of those concerns with a new online solution.

The GSA this week launched the new online Federal Social Media Registry and verification tool intended to allow users to register and verify official federal social media accounts.

The registry is meant to serve as a central database to list all official, verified federal social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and YouTube and other services, totaling 22 networks.

Debuting on Howto.gov on April 26, the registry allows users to enter an account name to determine if it is an official account sponsored by a federal agency. It also allows federal managers to submit accounts for registration and verification.

While the registry is up and running, it was apparently incomplete as of April 27. A quick check of about a dozen official federal Twitter accounts indicated that about half had not been registered yet. In addition, the registry does not include official accounts at Pinterest.com, which is currently one of the fastest-growing social networks.

By building a central solution governmentwide, the GSA said it is improving efficiency and saving agencies the cost of developing such registries themselves, the agency said in a GSA DigitalGov blog post about the project.

The verification concerns are relatively new and specific to social media. There are fewer concerns about validation of official government websites because the websites are typically hosted on .gov and .mil Web domains that are easy to identify and recognize.

Social accounts are hosted on commercial domains without such clear indicators.

“Without the .gov or .mil domain, it’s difficult to tell legitimate government sites from impersonators. Now the public can use the social media registry to validate that a social media account is really managed by the government and is not an impostor,” states the GSA New Media blog.

The registry will help agencies manage thousands of social media accounts, and will offer a series of Application Programming Interfaces to the agencies to help them obtain raw data and analytics about their accounts.

The registry is designed for accounts managed by federal agencies, elected officials, members of the President’s Cabinet and heads of agencies. It will not include personal, employee, or other types of social media accounts.

As of April 27, while some agencies had registered their official social participation in the registry, many others had not. Checks of the Homeland Security Department, Veterans Affairs Department and National Archives and Records Administration’s Twitter accounts showed they were verified by the GSA tool.

However, none of the military Twitter accounts that were checked were registered with GSA on that date, including @USArmy, @USNavy, @USMC, @USAirForce and @TheNatlGuard. On the other hand, each of those accounts displayed a checkmark indicating they had been previously verified as official by Twitter. Officials from those accounts were not immediately available to comment.



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