Information Security

Schools to Social Media: Dedicate Verification/Reporting Processes to Distinguish Legitimate School Accounts

In a survey of school communication and technology professionals, more than half reported several social media platforms have no dedicated account verification and reporting processes for accounts owned by federally recognized preK–12 or K–12 schools. This lack has burdened the schools with having to challenge fake-official and mock accounts and get their own legitimate accounts verified, wasting time and resources, and sometimes failing to prevail.

The spring 2022 survey and report, titled “Schools and Social Media: The Critical Need for Verification and Dedicated Reporting Processes,” was a joint project by the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) and the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN). The 292 NSPRA members responding were from 43 states with educational organizations that serve between 2,000 and 49,999 students.

Responses showed that of over 50% who had dealt with fake or mock accounts, only about a third were able to get their school accounts verified; 25% were denied verification; 59% had dealt with accounts that harass, intimidate or bully students; and 45% could not get social media platforms to remove offending accounts.

The survey’s authors contacted authorities at six major social media platforms: LinkedIn, Meta (Facebook), SnapChat, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube and asked three questions. Does the platform allow verification of official school accounts? Does it provide a process for legitimate schools to report fraudulent accounts misrepresenting themselves as official? Does it provide a way to report fraudulent accounts that harass, bully and intimate students?

Of the six, only Twitter said it was engaged in creating a process for schools to legitimize their accounts, the other five said they had no dedicated process, and all but SnapChat said they were “willing to explore it.” Of the remaining two questions, none had dedicated processes, and only YouTube said it was willing to explore creating them.

“Social media is a powerful tool to engage families in local education, but without dedicated verification and reporting processes, school districts struggle to prevent the harm to students and staff caused by malicious and fraudulent accounts,” said NSPRA Executive Director Barbara M. Hunter, APR.

Go here to read the full report.

About the Author

Kate Lucariello is a former newspaper editor, EAST Lab high school teacher and college English teacher.