Twitter says it finally has a solution to its verification symbol crisis: Verify everyone.
The company has faced turmoil and scrutiny over the practice in which an account is given a blue checkmark next to the user’s Twitter handle. After opening verification for all accounts in 2016, the company has been criticized for giving the status symbol to unsavory accounts, leading Twitter to halt verification at the end of last year.
Now CEO Jack Dorsey says Twitter is going to verify everyone—eventually.
Dorsey shared the news in a live video on Periscope.
— jack (@jack) March 8, 2018
The conversation was an informal address to Twitter users, with the camera being passed among Dorsey and other Twitter spokespeople.
Dorsey addressed what he sees as the current problem with verification: Users currently see the little blue checkmark as a status symbol.
“The main problem is we use it to mean identity, but because of the way it was originally started, where it was only given to certain very large public figures, celebrities, etc., it came to have a lot of status associated with it, as well,” [Twitter director of product David Gasca] said on the same Periscope as Dorsey. “They think of it as credibility. Twitter stands behind this person, Twitter believes that this person is someone that — what they’re saying is great and authentic, which is not what at all what we mean by the checkmark.”
Dorsey says that by giving the symbol to everyone the platform will eliminate the perception of bias.
“The intention is to open verification for everyone, and to do it in a way that is scalable where we (Twitter) are not in the way. And people can verify more facts about themselves and we don’t have to be the judge or imply any bias on our part,” Dorsey said.
Dorsey also says verification will come to the platform’s many joke accounts, which, he says, add a lot to Twitter but pose a problem for users trying to differentiate fact from fiction.
Dorsey also adds that identity, as well as anonymity, is an important part of Twitter. He insists that Twitter doesn’t enforce a real name policy because he wants the platform to be a safe space for someone to speak their mind without sharing identifiable information that would “put them in the way of harm.” He also adds that the team is working on better highlighting accounts that are parodies, in order to prevent tweets from these accounts from being misconstrued as facts. (The Twitter account @dprk_news, for example, is often mistaken as a real North Korean news source.)
So, how soon can you expect to get your verification badge? It might take a while, and Twitter has been vague about the rollout, though it has promised to be more transparent.
“We have a lot of work ahead, it’s not going to be overnight. We’re going to be as open as we can,” he said. “That’s going to be uncomfortable for us in many ways, but we want to be very open and very vulnerable with you all about what we’re facing and what our challenges are.”
It could be a little while off until everyone gets a checkmark. Dorsey said the company’s priority is verification around candidates in the 2020 U.S. election, to ensure people see credibility on the platform.
Fair enough, considering Twitter’s role in the last presidential election.
The efforts for Twitter also come amid reports that false information outperforms the truth on the platform, underscoring a major credibility issue for the company.
Twitter users seem almost to prefer sharing falsehoods. Even when the researchers controlled for every difference between the accounts originating rumors—like whether that person had more followers or was verified—falsehoods were still 70 percent more likely to get retweeted than accurate news.
And blame for this problem cannot be laid with our robotic brethren. From 2006 to 2016, Twitter bots amplified true stories as much as they amplified false ones, the study found. Fake news prospers, the authors write, “because humans, not robots, are more likely to spread it.”
Maybe Twitter’s plan to verify everyone will be a step in the right direction.
What do you think of Twitter’s efforts to be more transparent, PR Daily readers?