Social media website Twitter recently verified a Republican congressional candidate on its platform — the only problem is that the candidate doesn’t exist and the account was invented by a high school student.
CNN reports that Twitter recently verified an account supposedly belonging to a Republican from Rhode Island named “Andrew Walz” who called himself a “proven business leader” and a “passionate advocate for students.” Walz was allegedly running for Congress, with a tagline reading “Let’s make change in Washington together.” The account was verified earlier this month as part of Twitter’s efforts to verify the authenticity of many Senate, House and gubernatorial candidates running for office.
The biggest issue with verifying Walz’s account is that he does not exist. The account is run by a 17-year-old high school student from upstate New York who said he created the account as he was “bored” over the holidays and wanted to test Twitter’s election integrity efforts. CNN notes that the fact that a teenager was able to fool Twitter’s verification process so easily raises questions about the firm’s preparedness for handling the 2020 elections on its platform.
A Twitter spokesperson recently told a publication “Our worst-case scenario is that we verify someone who isn’t actually the candidate.” Twitter was criticized last year for saying that it would not verify candidates unless they won their primaries, but in December Twitter changed its policy to say that it would verify primary candidates to help improve information for voters on the platform.
The fake Republican candidate’s account has been deleted since Twitter was made aware of it: “The creation of a fake candidate account is in violation of our rules and the account has been permanently suspended,” a Twitter spokesperson said. The verification of the fake profile comes as real candidates across the US complain that Twitter has not verified their accounts. Twitter claims to have verified nearly 1,500 candidates since announcing the expansion of its verification program in December.