Twitter’s new verification guidelines send the wrong message

Twitter’s new verification guidelines send the wrong message

Twitter updated its verification guidelines on Wednesday for accounts “of public interest.” The change is designed to make verified account owners (those with that little blue checkmark next to their names) more accountable for what they tweet on the service. Twitter failed to acknowledge that verification had become a means of endorsement on the site. Twitter realized it had a serious issue after getting criticism for verifying the account of the white nationalist Charlottesville rally organizer earlier this year. Thus far, it’s removed verification from a handful of mostly white-nationalist and alt-right accounts, including Richard Spencer, Jason Kessler, Laura Loomer, and blogger @APurposefulWife. For example, President Donald Trump‘s Twitter behavior repeatedly and regularly violates Twitter’s guidelines. If Twitter wants verified users (or any user, for that matter) to take its stance against violence and harassment seriously—and the role verified users play in following these rules—it needs to take serious action against those who repeatedly and flagrantly violate its policies. With its new guidelines, Twitter is sending the wrong message. It’s saying that when you mislead or harm other users, that wrong is only worthy of losing a shiny badge next to your name. Tweets, whether we like it or not, have serious repercussions on the greater world around us. Verified users who abuse their platform need to be barred from tweeting or suspended from the app entirely.

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Illustration by Jason Reed (Fair Use)

Twitter updated its verification guidelines on Wednesday for accounts “of public interest.” The change is designed to make verified account owners (those with that little blue checkmark next to their names) more accountable for what they tweet on the service. But the changes don’t go far enough in ensuring influential account holders don’t abuse their position.

The problem began—at least in Twitter’s eyes—last July, when it allowed anyone to apply for a verified badge. Twitter failed to acknowledge that verification had become a means of endorsement on the site. (It originally began as more of a means to authenticate an account and distinguish it from copycats or parodies, but it became a symbol of elevated status.) Twitter realized it had a serious issue after getting criticism for verifying the account of the white nationalist Charlottesville rally organizer earlier this year. In response, Twitter halted its verification process last week, and this week, announced a set of new guidelines for verified users.

Now, Twitter says it “reserves the right to remove verification at any time without notice.” It can remove your verified status if you have a misleading name or bio, for promoting hate or violence, engaging in harassment, or violating Twitter’s other rules. Thus far, it’s removed verification from a handful of mostly white-nationalist and alt-right accounts, including Richard Spencer, Jason Kessler, Laura Loomer, and blogger @APurposefulWife.

This punishment is actually less severe than for those without a verified account. For the average Twitter users who violate Twitter’s rules, the company may: require you to delete a post before you can interact on the app again; temporarily limit your ability to create posts or chat with other Twitter users; request you…

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