Twitter is revising its authentication system after it faced criticism for giving blue badges of verification to individuals such as Jason Keller, the organizer of the intolerance rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. One of the new features would be taking away the verified status of an account if it was found to have hate mongering type posts or extremist contents.
Users misinterpreted Twitter verification
It all started last week, after Jason Kessler’s account was verified (a bright blue check mark). “Looks like I FINALLY got verified by Twitter. I must be the only working class white advocate with that distinction,” Kessler tweeted. Following this, celebrities such as Michael Ian Black criticized Twitter. “Hey @jack: very active user, 2.1M followers here: this is disgusting,” Black said, adding that verifying the account of Kessler means that Twitter is becoming a platform for hate speech.
Twitter was also quick to acknowledge its mistake.
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“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,” Twitter said, explaining that the system is being used in a wrong way, and promised to get it right.
On Wednesday, the company announced changes to the Twitter verification, saying it is not happy with the way people perceive the verification system of the company. According to the company, people think that the accounts with verified status are endorsed by Twitter, but that is wrong. Accepting their mistake and that they should have taken action in advance, Twitter stated that opening up the verification process for public submission has done more harm.
“We are conducting a review of verified accounts and will remove verification from accounts whose behavior does not fall within these new guidelines,” Twitter Support said on Wednesday.
3 / This perception became worse when we opened up verification for public submissions and verified people who we in no way endorse.
— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) November 15, 2017
To start with, Twitter removed the verified status for Twitter handle “Baked Alaska.” Laura Loomer, already banned from Uber and Lyft for her anti-Muslim rants against the drivers, announced that her Twitter account had lost the verified status. Other accounts that lost the verified status are “@apurposefulwife” and Tommy Robinson.
Twitter verification – a useful feature
Twitter came up with the verification process in 2009, and soon it was seen as the status symbol to have that blue tick mark on the account. Even then, the company lacked clarity on how it verified users and awarded accounts with the verified status. At the time, most of the verified accounts were of celebrities, athletes, musicians, journalists and media outlets. However, last year, after the verification process was opened to the public, individuals who wanted a verified account could fill in the form and provide information including a valid email address, identification and phone number.
Nevertheless, Twitter verification, if implemented and used in a right way, is a useful feature given the fact it helps users to differentiate between real handles and bot accounts, which create a lot of misinformation. The company is currently overhauling its entire system, and has already made some changes to the Twitter verification guidelines. The company is currently not accepting any verification requests from the public.
On Wednesday, Twitter shares closed down 0.70% at $19.91. Year to date, the stock is up over 22%, while in the last one month, it is up almost 7%.