eightbitmatt
eightbittech The Internet

Twitter Verification: What went wrong and can it be fixed?

I have been watching with interest the Twitter verification program since it started, as a way to make sure voices of authority were being recognised and listened to. But somewhere along this road, the verification initiative has lost its direction.

Why has Twitter verification gone wrong?

It is a very good question and I think it is long past being asked, for a while now I have thought the verification system has been off the rails. I also think I can pinpoint where it started, when they opened the verified application process.

The Twitter verification process was a long form where anyone who thought an account was worthy of verification could become verified. So it became less well known celebrities, business leaders, and major companies and became much more about smaller accounts who were “likely to be imitated”.

A picture showing the account of Jack Dorsey, part of Twitter verification program with a blue tick next to his username.

This, in my opinion, opened the flood-gates to many more accounts becoming verified with no rhyme or reason. A raft of well-known locals became verified because no one really knew why and then the application process closed.

If it’s broken, how do I think we should fix it?

I feel for the social networks, it will always be a struggle to handle verification. However, I feel Twitter verification is going to be a lot harder because anyone can, and does, set up accounts.

Fixing the whole verification issue isn’t going to be easy and I would hazard a guess that Twitter has had a lot of suggestions, so I’m definitely not going to help by adding mine. But I work in this industry and I can’t help but weigh in.

A massive change in structure is needed

I am not entirely sure how verified accounts come about these days, however, I would assume there is a team in Twitter HQ America approving and verifying each request.

However, as the world turns more and more to social media there will be an increasing number of requests to this single team. Either, the Twitter verification team gets larger or the Twitter team hand verification out and delegate it to other organisations.

For example, in the UK we already have BBC, ITV, and other major organisations have a central Marketing/Social Media hub. Teams already in place that know and understand which accounts should and shouldn’t be verified.

A register of organisations and verified contact points would solve a growing problem. Then the verification team could concentrate on managing this list and delegate that process to the larger out-of-organisation teams.

Minimums are massively important

However, we still have another bump to get over. How do you know when someone is ready to be verified? Not everyone should get the official seal of approval.

This is where I suggest a minimum requirement for Twitter verification, a mechanism that stops the delegated masses approving anyone. There should be a few factors to this to safeguard the verification process.

Size of the influence is an important factor, it should be country minimum specific (or minimum population) and not city by city. To me, a city is far too small to have the power to warrant influencer status, but if you have influence across the whole of the United Kingdom then you have much more chance of being a victim to imitation.

Secondly, they should be setting a minimum following. A couple of thousand followers definitely doesn’t count, now followers are growing so massively that you need to have over 100,000 to have an influence. Now you should be looking at a minimum of 50k for consideration of the verification process.

Accounts need both of these requirements to become a verified account, this cuts down who can be eligible and create authenticity in the verification badge and cuts down the list of those who need verification.

Removal of verification

Twitter verification also needs one more thing: a revamp of its verification removal process. Currently, once you are verified it seems near impossible to lose that verification. My final suggestion instead is to make the verification much easier to lose, because we have already made it harder to gain.

Using a verified account to promote false-hoods, push political gain, or promote false or damaging beliefs should automatically see your verification removed. A selection of verified, regularly vetted, and trusted moderators should be in control of this.

An extra section should be added to those who have lost Twitter verification, explaining exactly why verification was lost so followers understand the reasons for the loss.

Do parody accounts help or hinder?

There is another interesting third section to the Twitter verification nightmare. Unique to the platform, parody accounts are increasing massively, like the one I see of Donald Trump regularly.

The problem is how he appears in the timeline. At the moment the only rule they have for parody accounts are they need to state they are a parody account. The parody account follows that rule, however, you wouldn’t know at first glance.

Donald Trump Parody account.

To solve this problem I suggest creating advanced categories. Facebook for Business definitely has this under control and Twitter needs to follow suit. Making the distinction between businesses, creator, person of influence, or politician.

This creates the stepping stone to create advanced profiles for businesses and people of influence and would give Twitter the ability to mark those who aren’t verified automatically.

This is just one way we can start to solve the problem

The problem will only ever get bigger as social platforms grow in popularity. Twitter verification is the start of a bigger problem, as more social networks come along and other networks grow this problem will magnify.

Creating a uniform way of understanding, a universal way of marking official accounts that will work across networks and countries is important for the future of digital media and social networks. Not just Twitter.