In a recent unannounced Periscope stream, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey mentioned that Twitter may be working toward allowing any user to become verified on the site. What are the ramifications if this feature is implemented? What will that blue checkmark mean for Twitter users that aren’t celebrities or public figures?
Clearing Things Up
One of the biggest misconceptions about that little blue checkmark is that it’s an endorsement. It’s seen as a status symbol, something Twitter bestows upon people worthy of it. It was never meant for that purpose. Verification was always supposed to represent that the person tweeting was legitimate and wasn’t a fake pretending to be someone else.
The twisting of the checkmark’s meaning got especially heated in this past election cycl when white nationalists were verified and then had that verification stripped away. Some were mad they had the checkmarks to begin with and others were outraged when they were removed, claiming Twitter was biased.
It seems Twitter’s aim with this new process is to get away from the checkmark being seen as an endorsement. It’s just to assure you that the account you’re viewing is who they say they are. Nothing has been announced about the new process, but one can assume it’ll be similar to Airbnb, where you use your Facebook profile or government-issued ID to get verified.
A Case Of Identity
Twitter executives also said that they don’t want the platform to become something that requires a real name or a loss of anonymity. They want users to be able to speak freely and not have to worry about those thoughts leading to the harm of the individual. Letting them be verified could help users feel a bit better about who they’re following, even if their real name isn’t revealed.
Twitter also wants to crack down on parody accounts. With social media these days, the lines can be very blurred as to what a real news/politician account is and what isn’t. Making parody accounts known could cut down on the misinformation many people get from the platform. It’s a way for people to be able to trust who they’re following and know exactly what kind of content to expect.
Will It Work?
This news doesn’t come reservation-free. Will letting more people be verified make things even worse? While Twitter mentioned wanting to make sure users knew of parody accounts when they saw them, how do they plan on implementing that? If verification is no more than the blue checkmark, a verified parody account could look very similar to a verified legitimate account.
Would this mean Twitter would have to change things up and give certain accounts symbols for verification?
Parody accounts could get a red checkmark, for example. Where does it end, though? If Twitter is designating parody accounts from real, does that mean regular people have their own checkmark, public figures have another and so on?
Opening verifications up means an increase in the workforce as well, since it will need to have every verification application thoroughly checked out. Revamping the entire verification process is a pretty hefty task.
While there are definitely some hurdles for execution, it is nice to see that Twitter is making an effort to tackle the problems on its platform. However, this particular effort also involves changing the overall mindset of how people view the blue checkmark. It’s a big move for the Twitter brand and you can bet that the public’s response to it will be mixed. The only way for this to truly work is if users start seeing the checkmark as the representation of identity it was always intended to be instead of a status symbol or endorsement.
At this point, it’s arguable that there’s really nothing left to lose for Twitter. Changing up the verification process may be worth a shot. Only time will tell if it will be able to convert the public’s mindset in order for this experiment to work.