News & Opinion | February 28, 2020 10:27 am

Twitter Verified a Fake 2020 Candidate Made Up by a High School Student

The teen said he created the fake candidate to test Twitter's vigilance

twitter andrew walz
Not a great look for Twitter.
Giannis Alexopoulos/NurPhoto via Getty Images

According to his verified Twitter account, Andrew Walz is a Republican from Rhode Island, a “proven business leader” and  “passionate advocate for students” running for Congress with the tagline, “Let’s make change in Washington together.”

The only problem? Walz isn’t real. He’s the invention of a 17-year-old high school student who made the fake Twitter profile while bored over the holidays, as the student told CNN.

The teen, whose name has not been released, told CNN that he invented the Walz candidate as an experiment to test Twitter’s vigilance when it comes to candidate verification and preventing misinformation on the platform leading up to the 2020 election.

The teen said he created a website for the fake candidate in about 20 minutes, and completed the Andrew Walz Twitter account in just five. He also successfully registered Andrew Walz as a candidate on Ballotpedia, a website that lists American political candidates. Back in December, Twitter announced it would use Ballotpedia in order to help identify and recognize official candidate accounts, clearly putting undue faith in the site’s “expertise.”

The Andrew Walz Twitter account received official verification complete with Twitter’s coveted blue checkmark earlier this week, without the account’s creator ever once being asked to provide any proof of Walz’s candidacy or existence to either Twitter or Ballotpedia.

Twitter suspended the Andrew Walz account after being tipped off by CNN. “The creation of a fake candidate account is in violation of our rules and the account has been permanently suspended,” a Twitter spokesperson embarrassingly had to say.

Meanwhile, there are actual candidates who are real people who have struggled to get their Twitter accounts verified by the platform. Actual candidate/real person Jannquell Peters, who is running in the Democratic primary in Georgia’s 13th Congressional District, told CNN her campaign had unsuccessfully sought Twitter verification multiple times since December.

Twitter eventually verified Peters’ account after CNN reached out, because apparently monitoring Twitter’s candidate verification process is CNN’s job now.

Despite causing this very awkward and embarrassing situation for Twitter, the teen behind the Walz profile maintains a pro-Twitter stance. “I want Twitter to succeed. I love Twitter,” he told CNN. “I think it’s a great platform and I’ve learned so much from it.”

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