Would Identity Verification Make Social Media Safer?
March 17, 2021
As people have become even more connected online, social media usage has continued to rise and play a wider role in our everyday lives.
When used right, social media is an incredible form of communication and can be a force for good. But, the relative anonymity it offers users is subject to growing criticism as some people hide behind pseudo-accounts and launch abuse at others. Is it time for wider identity verification on social media?
Below is a list of all the topics we will cover in this article. Go ahead and click on any of these links, and you’ll be taken to that specific section.
Social Media Today
As of the start of 2021, there are 4.2 billion active social media users worldwide (more than half of the global population) with the average social media user owning an account on 8.3 different social platforms. According to DataReportal, 490 million people started to use social media in the year leading up to January 2021, equating to an annual growth of more than 13%, or an average 15½ new users every second.
These figures suggest that more than 9 in 10 internet users now use social media every month and that people spend roughly 15% of their waking lives using social media.
We recently explored how you’re more likely to own a social media account than a bank account, but the market penetration is truly staggering.
Social media has become a primary form of communication and can help improve an individual’s sense of connectedness with real or online communities. It is also an effective marketing tool for corporations, entrepreneurs, non-profit organisations, advocacy groups, political parties, and governments. However, there are a growing number of negative connotations associated to social media platforms; social comparisons, security of information, effects on mental health and an increase in cyber bullying & abuse has led to platforms receiving criticism for their lack of identity verification.
Many users (including celebrities) have experienced threats of violence online and have feared these threats manifesting themselves offline. Related issues include cyberbullying, online harassment, and ‘trolling’. The relative anonymity users experience on social media platforms has provided these online ‘trolls’ the opportunity to abuse other users, with little-to-no consequence.
According to cyberbullying statistics from the i-Safe Foundation, over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyberbullying. Social accounts, particularly those of famous people are regularly subject to abuse in many forms, including racist abuse and hate crimes which carry criminal punishments in the real-world.
Should Users Be Verified?
Social media may find itself subject to verification regulations in the future to protect those most vulnerable; currently, users are typically asked to put in their birthday when they sign up for a service, but there is no real verification to ensure it is accurate.
There are arguments both for and against adding identity verification to the social media account opening process. By linking a user’s real-world identity to their online persona, the idea is that people would be less emboldened to abuse and attack people online, as there may be real-world, legal consequences. This could indeed act as a deterrent to online ‘trolls’ and abusers. However, with so many live accounts requiring retrospective verification (Facebook alone boasts almost 3 billion users) it is questioned whether this course is even viable.
There’s then an economic impact; social media platforms like Facebook offer businesses a ‘captive’ audience to market their products and services to. Reducing their number of users in any way would likely be to the detriment of this.
But the conversation for verifying social media users is getting louder and seemingly only going one way. Platforms have a responsibility to protect their users and self-regulate, rather than expecting customers to police themselves. Whether they self-impose verification or it is forced upon them, it seems we’re not far from identity verification on social media.
How We Can Help
Acuant’s identity verification solutions provide a robust way to quickly and effectively verify, even users with very little personal information, wherever they are in the world.
Our comprehensive family of KYC and AML solutions all work together and are delivered via a single API integration. Using this wide range of data, we provide a unique, real-time ID scoring system that intelligently verifies the identity and can be sure your customers are who they say they are.
Our global ID, KYC & AML platform, Sodium, is designed to help save you time and money, streamline your customer journey, automate your onboarding process, reduce fraud and achieve regulatory compliance. One simple integration; a flexible 360° solution that is scalable and secure.
Utilise a single element or multiple processes – it’s entirely up to you. Learn more about how we can help to automate and simplify your verification processes to help you to learn more about your customers.
Book a demo today and see for yourself how powerful our suite of solutions are.