Database of verified government social media accounts loses its teeth

As concerns about AI-fueled misinformation ahead of the 2024 election grow, agencies are no longer required to register their social media accounts.
Screenshot of the U.S. Digital Registry.

Back in 2016, the General Services Administration announced the launch of the U.S. Digital Registry, a database for tracking official government social media accounts, mobile websites, and apps. Part of the goal was to better track government social media efforts — and update an earlier federal social media registry meant to help people verify that government accounts were authentic

But today, agencies are no longer mandated to update the tool with their information, a spokesperson for GSA told FedScoop. The elimination of that requirement comes as election season draws closer and the threat of online impersonations of official government accounts grows.  Meanwhile, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has said that it’s no longer communicating or coordinating with social media companies over potential disinformation campaigns, as CyberScoop reported last month. 

The tool came amid a series of Obama-era government digital transformation efforts. Back in November 2016, the White House circulated a memo that required agencies to “register their public-facing digital services such as social media, collaboration accounts, mobile apps and mobile websites” on the site within 60 days. The point, the memo said, was to “help confirm the validity of official U.S. Government digital platforms.” 

But a new memo, from September 2023, did not renew that requirement, GSA said. The agency told FedScoop that it is in the process of updating a page that still notes the requirement. Currently, there are 463 user accounts on the registry, according to GSA, though it’s not clear how actively it is used by the public. 


A spokesperson for the Office of Management and Budget directed FedScoop to GSA.

Still, many agencies don’t seem to be updating their accounts. NASA, for instance, is extremely prolific on social media, but does not upload its accounts to the tool because the requirement was rescinded. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, which maintains social media accounts for its many field offices, only has five registered accounts on the tool. 

The tool has also seen other issues: Back in 2017, a researcher at George Washington University flagged vulnerabilities in the tool, including the inclusion of suspended accounts that, at one point, were tweeting in Russian, as well as deleted accounts with usernames that could be taken over. 

The government continues to face issues identifying the authenticity of its accounts. Last year, FedScoop reported on how, after the U.S. Office of Personnel Management deleted a mobile app meant to help recruit people to federal jobs, a similar-sounding fake took its place. When FedScoop asked about the tool, Google removed the app from the Google Play Store.

Rebecca Heilweil

Written by Rebecca Heilweil

Rebecca Heilweil is an investigative reporter for FedScoop. She writes about the intersection of government, tech policy, and emerging technologies. Previously she was a reporter at Vox's tech site, Recode. She’s also written for Slate, Wired, the Wall Street Journal, and other publications. You can reach her at Message her if you’d like to chat on Signal.

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