Is that social account legit?

The GSA announced the launch of an official registry of government social media accounts.  Their goals were to help users understand which accounts are legitimate in an era of phishing; offer a series of APIs for agencies to pull data back out of these burgeoning social accounts; and make the registry itself available to agencies, reducing duplication and error.

We launched a modest version of this directory idea at Harvard back in 2011 — a manually created directory of “official” social accounts at Harvard. Tweets had already been cleverly aggregated by David Malan and his CS50 crew, but there’s the problem of account creep and authentication. Is someone producing a HarvardTweet as a current faculty member or student? What happens when students graduate? When staff leave? How loose or tight should the definition of a HarvardTweet be?

Social media policies at most institutions address egregious misuse of accounts — sharing confidential information or harassment — but the question of affiliation is murkier, especially in an academic institution with 375,000 alumni worldwide. Perhaps the best approach is to divide into “endorsed” (departments, schools) versus “affiliated” (alumni, past and present staff) — and create useful APIs for both.

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