Cormac McCarthy is known for his sparse punctuation and distinctive writing style, the violent and pessimistic themes of his work, and his reclusive public figure. So it was surprising to see the novelist on Twitter, share good words on kombucha and SoundCloud for an audience of thousands.
But that was the real Cormac McCarthy – at least, according to Twitter, which gave the account, registered in 2018 under the misspelled name “CormacMcCrthy”, a blue check mark marking it as a “verified user.”
In fact, McCarthy had never signed up for the service, a fact confirmed shortly after by the writer’s agent, who said “it’s obviously not him.” The writer’s editor also confirmed that he was not behind the account.
Twitter acknowledged the error on Tuesday morning. A spokesperson said: “The referenced account was verified in error and has since been canceled. The account will also need to adhere to Twitter’s Parody, News Feed, Commentary, and Fan Account Policy.
The company did not respond to questions about how the error occurred. It wasn’t until May of this year that Twitter restarted its verification process, after “hanging” it for several years to reassess the basics of the program.
Originally introduced to combat identity theft on the platform, verification has grown to encompass a de facto premium level of Twitter applications. Verified users have access to additional tools to manage notifications, are prioritized by algorithmic filters and moderation, and until recently little or no ads were displayed on the site.
But in 2017, the company faced an uproar after handing out verification badges to a number of prominent far-right users, including the organizer of the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally, in which a cons – protester was assassinated. He put the new checks on hold and spent the next four years working on a tool that would allow him to restart in a more systematic way.
When this tool launched in May 2021, it only lasted eight days before Twitter had to suspend apps again – this time around because of a flood of requests. In order to qualify for verification, users are expected to authenticate their identity, either by uploading ID or showing that an official website is directly linked to their Twitter account.
The ersatz Cormac McCarthy did neither. Twitter apparently proactively decided to verify the account anyway, after a viral tweet from the parody account claiming that “my publicist is on my case about my infrequent use of this hellish website.”
“McCrthy” himself has yet to acknowledge the brief epistemological fuss sparked by his verification, but in a response to a question about who manages the account, he sent an animated gif of a clip from The Simpsons.