Twitter’s former verification process was exceedingly bizarre and completely arbitrary

Michael TaubeElon Musk finalized his purchase of Twitter on Oct. 27. The business magnate fired half of the communications company’s staff and announced impending changes.

In particular, Twitter’s verification system will be significantly revamped.

Verified users who already have blue check marks next to their handles, and unverified users who want one, will have to pay US$7.99 per month for this status. The former group will have 90 days to subscribe to the newly revamped Twitter Blue premium service. If not, their vaunted blue check marks will disappear.

Twitter Blue will be handling these monthly payments going forward. Additional features, such as long-form audio and videos, will also be available. The official roll-out is currently scheduled for Nov. 9.

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“Twitter’s current lords & peasants system for who has or doesn’t have a blue checkmark is bullshit,” Musk tweeted on Nov. 1. “Power to the people! Blue for $8/month.”

Some Twitter users have grumbled about Musk’s decision. As far as I’m concerned, he deserves praise for making this move.

The monthly fee is a market-based solution for a company that needs to find ways to generate some profit. Twitter users have the choice to pay or not pay the monthly fee.

Most importantly, it’ll end the bizarre, arbitrary process of awarding blue check marks.

Certain people should have always had one next to their name, including political leaders, sports stars, Hollywood celebrities, etc. Not all of them did. Some had blue check marks for no specific reason. It could have been related to a previous role or workplace, but it wasn’t obvious in each and every case.

There were also frequent Twitter users who never got one. Here are a few Canadian-based examples: radio host John Moore, Liberal strategists David Herle and Scott Reid, and Conservative strategists Jenni Byrne, Amanda Galbraith, Sara MacIntyre and Dan Robertson.

While it never mattered to me, I wondered why I never received a blue check mark. More than 26 years in politics and the media seemed like fair credentials. You didn’t have to be a household name to get verified. I’d also spent enough time in the public eye to be in the conversation, if nothing else.

So, I attempted to find out why.

As a fun experiment, I applied twice for Twitter verification to see if I fit under its three designations: Authentic, Notable and Active. I used two different methods in the category News organizations, individuals in news & journalists, and waited to see what happened. (A summary of the old process can be found here.)

The first verification attempt had to include “a link to an official website that references your organization and your Twitter account.” Another requirement asked for “links to 3 articles referencing the applicant as a news organization published by a Verified organization within the last six months” and that “your employer already has a Verified account.” As a freelance journalist, I had to include “links to 3 articles crediting you as the author from an already Verified news organization within the past six months. Opinion pieces will not be accepted.”

Since I predominantly write columns and op-eds based on opinion and analysis, I found that to be a ridiculous restriction. Nevertheless, I include a sufficient number of articles and opinion pieces. Even if Twitter tossed out the latter, they couldn’t ignore the former.

I was rejected within 30 minutes. No surprise – I didn’t expect the first attempt to be successful. I then had to wait 30 days to reapply again.

The second verification attempt included many previous steps – and a unique twist. I included “a photo of your valid government-issued ID” to help determine my “notability and authenticity.” If I followed Twitter’s process to the letter and provided ID verification, how could I be turned down again?

Well, I was.

Several hours after applying, I received another rejection which included this paragraph, “This account will not be verified at this time because the evidence provided did not meet our criteria for notability. As a result, we could not reliably verify that the account associated with the request is a notable person, organization, or brand.”

Huh?

I fit within most of Twitter’s categories for notability. I included articles (and columns) associated with verified news organizations for News Coverage. I’ve occasionally been mentioned with Google Trends. I’m mentioned (in passing) several times on Wikipedia. With respect to other industry specific references, my name is listed on places like the Twitter-recommended IMDB.

The only one I didn’t qualify for was Follower or Mention Count. I wouldn’t be regarded as a “top .05 per cent follower or mention count for your geographic location.” Then again, most Canadian Twitter users wouldn’t, either.

There are plenty of currently verified Twitter users who wouldn’t fit under its notability requirements. Yet, they somehow qualified while others, including me and the Twitter users I mentioned earlier, didn’t.

This doesn’t make one iota of sense. It proved that Twitter verification was exceedingly bizarre, completely arbitrary – and, as its new owner correctly wrote, little more than a “lords & peasants system.” The old process needed to be dropped, revitalized and turned into a fair, equitable and fee-based process.

Well done, Elon Musk. Power the people, indeed.

Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics.

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