Twitter verifies fake Cormac McCarthy account (again)

Twitter’s verification process is notoriously slapdash, but you’d expect the company not to fall for the exact same fake twice, right? Wrong!

In 2012, Twitter verified an account supposedly belonging to illustrious author Cormac McCarthy, which was in reality started by an unpublished novelist. Now, in 2021, it’s done the same thing again, briefly verifying a second McCarthy fake under the handle @CormacMcCrthy.

The account has now been un-verified, but a representative for McCarthy’s agent at ICM Partners confirmed to The Verge that it was fake. “I can confirm that this is definitely not a genuine Cormac McCarthy account,” they said. “Twitter is aware of this situation and we hope to have the issue resolved shortly.” Twitter has yet to respond to a request for comment from The Verge.

It is certainly hard to believe that the 88-year-old McCarthy — best known for the unrelenting darkness and violence of his many novels, including The Road, Blood Meridian, and No Country for Old Men — would ever tweet anything quite as twee as the following:

But apparently Twitter HQ was none the wiser.

The @CormacMcCrthy account has been tweeting infrequently since 2018 but was verified after a pair of its tweets went viral, racking up tens of thousands of likes and retweets. Many Twitter users were instantly skeptical about the authenticity of the account. “We have so normalised the idea of geniuses demeaning themselves on social media that people can actually believe Cormac McCarthy would tweet in the cadence of a John Oliver monologue,” commented British novelist Ned Beauman.

But the lure of Doing Numbers apparently was too much for some to stay away. Another verified author, Stephen King, had a bit of back and forth with the fake McCarthy, though whether King was actually fooled by the account isn’t clear.

Twitter’s verification process is frequently criticized for being slow, unfair, or just simply wrong. It relaunched the verification process earlier this year, using the criteria that accounts should be “authentic, notable, and active” to be verified only to “pause” the program a week later. Researchers have noted that the company’s checks seem so haphazard that it frequently verifies spam and bot accounts. But still, they really should have noticed that something was up here.