Will 2022 be the year social media platforms embrace ID verification?

Martin Cheek, Managing Director of KYC Specialist, SmartSearch explores the role of electrical ID verification (EIDV) in reducing online abuse.

According to recent research by DataReportal, there are close to half a billion new social media users across the globe, with Facebook, YouTube and WhatsApp proving most popular. These platforms receive millions of reports every month for online abuse, with numbers continuing to rise, specifically around anonymous posting. As experts around the world explore ways to reduce online abuse, could 2022 be the year we see widespread adoption of ID verification in the social media space?

The case for ID verification

Last year, Katie Price ’s Track A Troll petition got a wave of fresh support following the racist abuse received by England players in the Euro 2020 final. Although the petition received over 100,000 signatures earlier in the year, after England's loss the number rose to a further 600,000 people supporting ID verification as a requirement for opening a social media account.

In practice, ID verification involves linking a real-world identity to each person's online persona, under the understanding that people will be less likely to abuse and attack people online with the realisation that such behaviour could lead to penalties in the real world and indeed act as a deterrent.

Protecting privacy

The government, however, believes the ability to remain anonymous online is important and can protect vulnerable members of the public who may want to keep their identity private for different reasons which includes victims of abuse, confidential sources used by journalists and young people figuring out their gender or sexual identity.

The public perception

Data from YouGov revealed that 50% of Brits believe that requiring photo ID would effectively reduce online abuse. 17% of the UK population are reported to believe that combatting trolling is the responsibility of social media companies, while 34% feel it’s up to the individual posting the abuse, and 44% think both are accountable.

The future of ID verification on social media

Martin Cheek, Managing Director of SmartSearch, believes that the provision of photo ID for social media isn’t likely to be implemented in 2022, but highlights the importance of ID verification for businesses. He said:

“Under the UK government, user ID verification for social media isn’t going to be feasible in 2022 as the current view is that it could disproportionately impact vulnerable users and interfere with freedom of expression.

“Nevertheless, electronic ID verification (EIDV) remains an integral part of the onboarding process for a huge number of firms in the UK which have seen a lot of positives from implementation. Businesses in a wide range of sectors including legal, property, accounting, gaming and cryptocurrency rely heavily on EIDV to minimise risk.

“KYC and KYB checks are crucial in giving firms necessary transparency when going into business with new clients and customers.  At SmartSearch, we perform automated KYC and KYB checks using the Dow Jones Watchlist – an international database made up of over 1,100 lists worldwide. This database contains extensive profiles on both individuals and businesses, which are updated every day for maximum accuracy as well as improving the on-boarding experience for our customers.”

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