On Thursday, Twitter announced the temporary suspension of the badge verification protocol. Though the company has claimed for some time the blue checkmark would not be an endorsement, requirements for users to prove they have influence or at least popular have made the blue badge a sign of celebrity status. This backfired in a bad way when it was found the organizer of the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville happened to be one of the verified members.
The social media platform originally verified the accounts of those within the public eye like journalists, celebrities, and other popular figures. Unfortunately, the badge was taken to mean a sign of importance which is a close stone throw to integrity. So it is no wonder when the same platform which claimed to be chastising divisive agendas was allowing audience for one of the most discriminatory figures.
Twitter Damage Control Measures fail to Convince
Twitter issued a statement claiming the meaning behind the verification process of the blue badge had in fact been taken out of context. They stated the verification badge was never intended to be a symbol of endorsement. To provide the benefit of the doubt, maybe the symbol was not supposed to show significance but then again, one cannot deny the fact the blue tick was the digital equivalent of separating the wheat from the chaff. It was reserved for a select number, to distinguish fraud accounts from the genuine ones belonging to public figures. There is no other way of illustrating that an account has a particular designation of importance than assigning such a symbol.
The Co-founder of Twitter, Biz Stone announced the feature in a blog post in 2009. Twitter was facing a suit from Tony La Rassa on the grounds that someone had impersonated his account. Stone then announced the company would start verifying names of identities of high profile figures and add badges to their accounts. Over the course of time, Twitter started to grant special privileges to the users who have verification. They got the analytics that had previously been available to advertisers and showed how their tweets were performing.
Interestingly the criteria for getting verification were such that either Twitter would reach out to the user of the person would have to know someone at the platform that could do it for them. So over the course of time, Twitter was creating fodder for this backlash by making it seem that getting such an account in the first place was a privilege. It is understandable why there was an uproar when Kessler got a badge despite his stance. Twitter then would have no right to claim the feature is not a sign of privilege.
The verification process is meant to distinguish fake accounts from the real ones. As a quantitative consideration, it would stand to reason Twitter would blue badge the accounts that have the bigger following. There are examples which contradict this. Uber-Social happens to have 13.6 million followers as opposed to the Twitter founder who has only 4.13 million followers, but the Twitter mobile app does not have a blue tick.
Of course, it could be due to the litigations on copyright infringements, but there is no reason other than that why it should not be verified. Then there is the potential for fake accounts to have even more followers than the real accounts themselves resulting in blue badges given to the impersonators. In either case, the way that Twitter goes about the process needs to be amended to avoid these scenarios.