Twitter has opened its verification mark—the blue check that appears next to a user’s handle—to all users. This means the doors to request verified account status is available to everyone and will be given on a special basis when the platform deems it is “of public interest.”
What constitutes “public interest” usually includes companies, known and national reporters, musicians, actors, writers, artists, politicians, major podcasts, films, games, athletes, scientists, brands, and activists. In short, people who contribute to pop culture, journalism, business, and politics.
To put your account in the running for that blue check mark, you would need to fill out Twitter’s verification form and provide a lot of identification content such as a profile picture, email, official website, a verified phone number, an actual bio, government ID or passport, and other things. If Twitter rejects a person or company from verified status they can reapply in 30 days.
While Twitter says it’s so that other users will have “high-quality accounts to follow” it would also serve as a good step in actually handling harassment—something that the platform has been very slow and ineffective at tackling.
If the verification process was relaxed and extended to more users—possibly split into “verified users” and “verified influencers”—it could weed out people who use the platform to engage in harassment by putting their public information readily available if they engage in harassment for law enforcement, legal, and archiving purposes.
For example: if account A harasses account B and both are verified, user B possibly gets the three strikes (warning, suspension, ban), two strikes (suspension and ban), or one strike (ban) approach.
Verifying your account would mean you “know better” so a one or two strike approach would probably be more valid. No one should sign up, harass people like they wouldn’t outside of social media in most cases, and say “Oh I didn’t know this wasn’t that kind of party.” In the case of accounts that decide not to verify, if they harass users then they’re just up for a ban no questions asked no discussion on why.
While being nameless and faceless—outside of an avatar and account—is one of the things that made Twitter a platform to flock to and share opinions on, the surge of harassment on the platform in the past few years has made it so that Twitter will have to take strong steps.
With people of color, people with disabilities, and LGBT+ users being the main targets of harassment ranging from slurs to threats of violence on Twitter for years, it’s a sorry case when it takes a celebrity—recently actress and comedian Leslie Jones, co-star of Ghostbusters—receiving vile harassment and making it so that everyone is a witness and blog start reporting on it for Twitter to do something about it and work on policy.
Sure it’s a probably a lengthy process to get something effective in place, but this has happened for so long that by now it whatever approach Twitter takes should be stronger if it had been addressed actively years prior in other cases.
Of course, to quote the title of former WCW president, Eric Bischoff’s biography: “Controversy creates cash” and harassment creates traffic both from the harassment mob and those defending the person initiating the mob and from those supporting and defending the victim of harassment.