Rethinking Twitter Verification

by @edent | | 7 comments | Read ~482 times.

I have my Twitter Tick™ because I'm a mediocre white man in the tech industry. No joke. During one of Twitter's periodic bouts of opening up their verification programme, I applied and basically said "Don't you know who I am??!" and got it. Sucks to be anyone other than me, I guess.

Twitter has paused the Verification process for now. In part, I suspect, due to overwhelming false positives and negatives.

The main problem, I think, is that no one knows what "Verified" means. Is the user a celebrity? A journalist? A spoof account? A friend of Twitter's CEO? It's all so unclear.

It seems to me that the answer is expanding Verification to take into account the different types of users of Twitter.

The Mastodon social network has the concept of "Bot" accounts. They are clearly marked as robots and that lets users know they're interacting with a non-person.

Lots of journalists get verified by Twitter - because Twitter wants to integrate with newsrooms. Should a junior fashion reporter at the South Nowhere Bugle get the same sort of tick as the Chief Political Correspondent of the world's biggest news show? It's egalitarian, to be sure, but it doesn't help a user determine if the Verified account Tweeting about Afghanistan is a credible source. Once the journo leaves the industry and becomes a pizza delivery driver, do they keep their tick?

I've written before about people talking to fake customer services on Twitter. Scammers pose as @Bank_0f_ANNER1CA and try to con people out of money. If brands had a big "Verified Brand" or "Certified Bank" label, that would make it harder for scams to proliferate.

I currently work for a Government department (this is a personal blog) - and it can be easy for our departments and initiatives to get Verified. But, again, what does that mean? Twitter does occasionally add "this is a state-affilliated account" labels:
Screenshot of the GOV.UK Twitter Account. Twitter have added a flag and label saying it is state affiliated.

I've no idea what the process is for that - nor how accounts apply or are verified - but it shows it can be done.

Is that really a Mr Feynman on Twitter? Or a cheap numbers-pumping account?

Yes, it spoils the joke if you give satirical accounts a big disclaimer - but it prevents users getting confused and upset.

Twitter has never really known what it is for. That's part of the joy of it - lots of weird experiments unconstrained by a singular product vision. But it is clear that users want to understand who they're interacting with.

My suggestions aren't set in stone, and they certainly haven't been tested with any users. And, obviously, I have no power to change Twitter's roadmap. But I think it's time Twitter spoke to its users and understood what they want out of a Verification programme.

7 thoughts on “Rethinking Twitter Verification

  1. Got verified when I was running a tech website, but it doesn't mean I have any credibility (not even, these days, in tech). So what does verification mean? Just "yeah, this is that person you might have read about somewhere"?

  2. Neil Brown says:

    There’s lots of good stuff here.

    My gut reaction though is that we need a radically different, decentralised, approach.

    Most likely a web of trust, where I decided who to trust l, informed by who is trusted by others I trust.

  3. I assumed verification was an account attribute utilised internally by Twitter to give improved workflows for support, reduced automated suspensions and moderation, and as a marker of accounts that add to the Twitter value proposition.

    E.g. the user of verification is Twitter

  4. Jan says:

    Not directly relevant but I always asked myself why there wasn’t a tld
    “.bank” which cost a million eur to register AND was only given to verified banks.

    1. @edent says:

      There is a .bank TLD which operates that way. See https://www.ftld.com/ for details.

  5. interesting points. I'm a little skeptical of verification:
    - if it's about identity verification, everyone (individual or organisation) should be able to get verified
    - if it's about credibility/voice, only notable people should.
    Currently, it's a bit of both. 1/2


  6. Unfortunately, what quite a lot of “verified” users want is to be able to claim it’s just about confirming their name against impostors when questioned, while secretly enjoying the implication that they’re somehow a little superior to those unticked. Separating those breaks that.

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