If you’re one of the troves of people who — for some bizarre reason — wants to be among the blue-checked elite on Twitter, then good news: everyone’s favourite app for posting bad takes will be bringing back its verification process early next year.
Twitter announced on Tuesday that it has formal plans to relaunch account verification — complete with a new, public application process — in “early 2021.” The company paused public verifications three years ago, though thousands of accounts (including my own) have still quietly achieved checkmark status in the interim. After all that time and more than a few screw-ups, Twitter has decided the relaunched should also be a bit more of a revamped: better defining who gets verified and why, and what it takes for an account to have their blue checkmark snatched away.
According to the current draft of the verifications policy, accounts that meet the bar for verification include companies or brands with a Twitter presence, news organisations, activists, and organisers, all subject to a variety of criteria to meet verification status. It also sets up what is effectively a miscellaneous category which it calls “influential individuals,” a phrase that Twitter does its best to describe in the draft as:
people who are using Twitter effectively to bring awareness, share information, and galvanize community members around a cause, to bring about socioeconomic, political, or cultural change, or to otherwise foster community
Twitter notes that no matter how influential one of these accounts happens to be, if they “primarily” post content that “harasses, shames, or insults” any particular person or group — on the basis of their race, ethnicity, sexuality etc. — they likely won’t be verified. The same goes for “content that promotes the supremacy or interests of members of any group” in a way that can be read as threatening to any of those groups involved.
This hasn’t always been so clear in the past. Case in point: back in 2017, Twitter decided to verify the account of Charlottesville rally organiser Jason Kessler, leading to an instant backlash about Twitter that ignited the platform. Even though the company’s official Support account later tweeted out that its choice to verify a neo-nazi’s account wasn’t tantamount to endorsing the bile that account tweeted, the truth is that a lot of folks seemed to take it that way.
“Verification was meant to authenticate identity & voice but it is interpreted as an endorsement or an indicator of importance,” Twitter wrote at the time, adding that the “confusion” surrounding the entire verification process clearly needed to be resolved before it could continue. At the time, Twitter noted it would “report back soon.”
Verification was meant to authenticate identity & voice but it is interpreted as an endorsement or an indicator of importance. We recognize that we have created this confusion and need to resolve it. We have paused all general verifications while we work and will report back soon
— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) November 9, 2017
Three years, 14 days and 20ish hours later, here we are.
Twitter-ers can take a look at the drafted proposal here, and let the company know what they think about the changes here. After taking that feedback into account, the final policy should be released by December 17th.