This could make many Twitter users very happy, or equally lead to more confusion, depending on how it’s enacted.
According to a new discovery by reverse engineering expert Jane Manchun Wong, Twitter is working on a new option that would enable users to apply for profile verification from their account settings.
Twitter shut down the option to apply for verification – and gain the prestigious blue tick – back in November 2017 after confusion over how the verification tick was being applied, with some regions, and even individual Twitter employees, seemingly approving people based on different classification.
Twitter hasn’t provided any updates on the process since then, though it has repeatedly noted that it is working on a new system. Twitter has also continued to verify some accounts, though not via user applications. Most recently, Twitter used its verification tick to highlight authoritative voices in relation to COVID-19, but again, that was internally managed, and not open for public requests.
Twitter first enabled all users to apply for verification back in 2016, though if you try to go through that process now, you’re met with this note:
Twitter product lead Kayvon Beykpour reported in July 2018 that, while work had been done on fixing its verification process, it was not a priority, and was still some way off being re-launched. The appearance of a new prompt in testing could suggest that it’s now moving closer to making a comeback – though how it might function, and what qualification process Twitter will use for such, remains a mystery. And it’ll likely be difficult for Twitter to manage, no matter how they go about it.
For example, part of the problem with verification was that it seemingly implied that Twitter endorsed any account with a blue tick. In 2017, Twitter verified the profile of a white supremacist leader – despite, around the same time, vowing to take more action against hate speech. That’s what prompted the initial pause on verification – the confusion here was that some within Twitter saw the verification tick as a basic mark of ID confirmation, while others felt it should be reserved for approved public figures only. So some people have been verified simply by proving who they are, regardless of their public profile, while others have been rejected, despite being people of significance.
Any changes to the process will mean that Twitter will need to provide more specific clarity around exactly what qualifies someone for a blue tick, but it could also mean that Twitter will need to retrospectively remove the tick from those who currently have it, yet don’t meet these updated standards.
Twitter, of course, is unlikely to do that, but if it doesn’t take that step, that will mean that a level of confusion will remain around what the blue tick represents, as some people who’ve been approved previously will still have it, despite not matching the new requirements.
How Twitter gets around that is hard to say – just remove it for everyone then start again? That seems unlikely – but then again, with only 356k people currently holding the blue tick, Twitter could, theoretically, review all of these profiles and take the tick away from those who are no longer eligible.
Either way, it’s interesting to note that Twitter does appear to be moving on this, and it’ll be ineresting to see how they facilitate the process moving forward.
If Twitter leans towards making it more of an official ID confirmation, that could help to provide more accountability, with users unable to hide behind a basic account. Twitter could, for example, reduce the visibility of accounts which are not approved, limiting their capacity to interact without going through the ID process. That could make trolls think twice about their activity, given that it would be tied back to their actual identity.
If Twitter leans towards making it more of exclusive endorsement for public figures, that, as noted, could see accounts that don’t qualify stripped of the tick.
It’s an interesting element, and we’ll have to wait and see where Twitter decides to go with it.
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