- A TikTok account appearing to belong to Kendall Jenner popped up on the platform Monday to much fanfare, but the account was gone less than 24 hours later.
- Business Insider has discovered that the account — verified by TikTok as legit and given a blue checkmark before accruing nearly half a million followers — was a fake made by someone posing as the 24-year-old Jenner.
- After scouring old social media posts by the real Kendall Jenner on Instagram, Business Insider discovered that the two videos posted to the @kendalljenner TikTok were identical to year-old posts from Jenner’s Instagram Stories.
- TikTok’s guidelines about how it verifies accounts are incredibly murky, and do not say what steps the team takes to confirm an account is legitimate.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
TikTok has confirmed it made a mistake by verifying an account appearing to belong to Kendall Jenner that wasn’t actually the 24-year-old model at all.
Jenner appeared to post her first TikTok video on Monday, only for the account to disappear less than 24 hours later. Business Insider has discovered that TikTok was duped into mistakenly verifying an account whose owner was only pretending to be Jenner.
TikTok has since confirmed Business Insider’s investigation, saying it removed the account after “an internal review” questioned whether the account was legitimate.
“Within hours of verifying an account claiming to be Kendall Jenner, an internal review raised questions about the account’s authenticity, and TikTok immediately removed it as a precaution,” TikTok said in a statement to Business Insider.
The implications of a platform giving legitimacy to a fake account are troubling. Parody and fan accounts for celebrities and public figures are abundant across social platforms, and a breakdown in the system could be cause for concern for the millions of users who rely on these verification systems to tell them who is real and not.
Representatives for Jenner have not responded to requests for comment.
Jenner appeared to make her TikTok debut Monday, using the handle @kendalljenner. The account — equipped with a blue checkmark indicating it was a verified account — attracted nearly half a million followers within two hours of posting its first video. By Tuesday afternoon, less than 24 hours after making its debut, Business Insider discovered that the account had disappeared from the platform.
Upon further investigation, it appears that the account verified as Jenner was a fake. In the day that the account was active on TikTok, it posted two videos: one of Jenner standing in front of a bathroom mirror set to King Staccz’s “Pretty Face”, and a second, slow-motion clip of the model dancing behind a curtain of pink streamers overlaid with audio from “Safe Zone” by Lonr.
Business Insider has found that neither of these videos are new pieces of content. Both videos have previously appeared on Jenner’s Instagram Stories, from two separate occasions in 2019.
The video of Jenner posing in front of a bathroom mirror appeared on Jenner’s Stories back in October, but with no audio.
The second video — with the slow-motion effects applied — was posted on Jenner’s Instagram Stories in June 2019. The video appears to have been taken at a 70s-themed birthday party the weekend before for Jenner’s friend Tiffany Sorya, which also attracted celebrities such as Sofia Richie and Jenner’s younger sister, Kylie.
Although Instagram Stories disappear from users’ accounts after 24 hours, there are a number of fan-made social media accounts that save and share the content that appears on Kendall Jenner’s Stories. Jenner isn’t the only celebrity whose disappearing content from Instagram and Snapchat is saved in perpetuity: everyone from Jenner’s sister Kylie, to pop star Taylor Swift, to YouTuber David Dobrik have similar fan accounts.
It’s not entirely clear how the TikTok account, seemingly belonging to Jenner, was awarded a blue checkmark. According to TikTok’s website, TikTok accounts are awarded these coveted checkmarks only after TikTok has verified “the account belongs to the user it represents.” TikTok provides no further details about the steps it takes, or what information it asks of an account before awarding it a blue checkmark.
Like many popular social media accounts, TikTok has a system for the indicating the legitimacy of accounts belonging to high-profile personalities and celebrities “to help users make informed choices about the accounts they chose to follow.” Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram all have similar systems for verifying users, although platforms differ in how checkmarks are made available to users: Some will allow users to apply for verification, while others — including TikTok — will dole out checkmarks as it sees fit.
However, a breakdown in the verification process could mean trouble for TikTok, a popular platform still struggling to establish its place among more established social networks.
TikTok only arrived in the US a year and a half ago, but the short-form video platform has skyrocketed in popularity. The platform has been particularly popular among teens, who have shown up on it in droves to create and share videos ranging from lip syncing to comedic skits to viral challenges.
With over 1.5 billion all-time downloads internationally, TikTok has become a global viral sensation. The app has gone through name changes and gotten new features throughout its history, but it’s all only helped to spur its popularity to new heights. However, TikTok’s burgeoning popularity in the US has also raised questions regarding its roots in China, and how much access and influence the Chinese government has to TikTok’s user data and content moderation.