Twitter verification, is a system intended to communicate the authenticity of an Twitter account.[1] Since November 2022, Twitter users whose accounts are at least 90 days old and have a verified phone number receive verification upon subscribing to X Premium or Verified Organizations; this status persists as long as the subscription remains active.[2]

Blue eight-lobed badge with checkmark icon
"Blue checkmark" Twitter verification badge, used by X Premium subscribers
Gold-colored eight-lobed badge with checkmark icon
Gold badge used for Verified Organizations subscribers
Gray eight-lobed badge with checkmark icon
Gray badge used for government accounts

When introduced in June 2009, the system provided the site's readers with a means to distinguish genuine notable account holders, such as celebrities and organizations, from impostors or parodies.[3][4] Until November 2022, a blue checkmark[5] displayed against an account name indicated that Twitter had taken steps to ensure that the account was actually owned by the person or organization whom it claimed to represent.[6][7] The checkmark does not imply endorsement from Twitter, and does not mean that tweets from a verified account are necessarily accurate or truthful in any way.[8] People with verified accounts on Twitter are often colloquially referred to as "blue checks" on social media and by reporters.[9]

In November 2022, the verification program was modified heavily by new owner Elon Musk, extending verification to any account with a verified phone number and an active subscription to an eligible X Premium (formerly Twitter Blue) plan. These changes faced criticism from users and the media, who believed that the changes would ease impersonation, and allow accounts spreading misleading information to feign credibility. In a related change, Twitter introduced additional gold and gray checkmarks, used by Verified Organizations and government-affiliated accounts, respectively.[10] Twitter claims that the changes to verification are required to "reduce fraudulent accounts and bots".[1]

Twitter users who had been verified through the previous system were known as "legacy verified" accounts;[11] legacy verification was deprecated in April 2023, and stripped from accounts who do not meet the new payment requirements. Musk later implied that he had been personally paying for the X Premium subscriptions of several notable celebrities.[12][13]

History edit

2009–2022 edit

In June 2009, after being criticized by Kanye West and sued by Tony La Russa over unauthorized accounts run by impersonators, the company launched their "Verified Accounts" program.[14][15] Twitter stated that an account with a "blue tick" verification badge indicates "we've been in contact with the person or entity the account is representing and verified that it is approved".[16] After the beta period, the company stated in their FAQ that it "proactively verifies accounts on an ongoing basis to make it easier for users to find who they're looking for" and that they "do not accept requests for verification from the general public".[17] Originally, Twitter took on the responsibility of reaching out to celebrities and other notable to confirm their identities in order to establish a verified account.[18]

In July 2016, Twitter announced a public application process to grant verified status to an account "if it is determined to be of public interest" and that verification "does not imply an endorsement".[19][20][21] In 2016, the company began accepting requests for verification, but it was discontinued the same year. Twitter explained that the volume of requests for verified accounts had exceeded its ability to cope; rather, Twitter determines on its own whom to approach about verified accounts, limiting verification to accounts which are "authentic, notable, and active".[22][23]

In November 2020, Twitter announced a relaunch of its verification system in 2021. According to the new policy, Twitter verifies six different types of accounts; for three of them (companies, brands, and influential individuals like activists), the existence of a Wikipedia page will be one criterion for showing that the account has "Off Twitter Notability".[24]

Controversy edit

On June 21, 2014, actor William Shatner raised an issue with several Engadget editorial staff and their verification status on Twitter. Besides the site's social media editor, John Colucci, Shatner also targeted several junior members of the staff for being "nobodies", unlike some of his actor colleagues who did not bear such distinction. Shatner claimed Colucci and the team were bullying him when giving a text interview to Mashable. [25] Over a month later, Shatner continued to discuss the issue on his Tumblr page,[26] to which Engadget replied by defending its team and discussing the controversy surrounding the social media verification.[27]

Twitter's practice and process for verifying accounts came under scrutiny again in 2017 after the company verified the account of white supremacist and far-right political activist, Jason Kessler. Many who criticized Twitter's decision to verify Kessler's account saw this as a political act on the company's behalf.[28] In response, Twitter put its verification process on hold. The company tweeted, "Verification was meant to authenticate identity & voice but it is interpreted as an endorsement or an indicator of importance. We recognize that we have created this confusion and need to resolve it. We have paused all general verifications while we work and will report back soon."[29]

As of November 2017, Twitter continued to deny verification of Julian Assange's account following his requests.[30]

In November 2019, Dalit activists of India alleged that higher-caste people get Twitter verification easily and trended hashtags #CancelAllBlueTicksInIndia and #CasteistTwitter.[31][32][33] Critics have said that the company's verification process is not transparent and causes digital marginalisation of already marginalised communities.[34] Twitter India rejected the allegations, calling them "impartial" and working on a "case-by-case" policy.[35][36]

After three years without offering the account verification service, on May 20, 2021, Twitter relaunched its service that attests to user legitimacy.[37] This time offering notability criteria for the account categories of government, companies, brands, and organizations, news organizations and journalists, entertainment, sports and activists, organizers, and other influential individuals.[38] Among all these categories listed, it is still missing a specific category that fits scientists[39] and religious figures.[40]

Since November 2022 edit

Following the acquisition of Twitter by Elon Musk on October 28, 2022, Musk told Twitter employees to introduce paid verification by November 7 through Twitter Blue. The Verge reported that the updated Blue subscription would cost $19.99 per month, and users would lose their verification status if they did not join within 90 days.[41][42][43] Following backlash, Musk tweeted, in response to author Stephen King,[44] a lowered $8 price on November 1, 2022.[45][46] Twitter confirmed the new price of $7.99 per month on November 5, 2022.[47][48] The new verification system began rollout on November 9, 2022, a day after the 2022 United States elections.[49] The decision to delay its rollout was to address concerns about users potentially spreading misinformation about voting results by posing as news outlets and lawmakers.[50]

At the same time, Twitter introduced a secondary gray "Official" label on some high-profile accounts, but removed them hours after launch.[51][52][53] Less than 48 hours later, Twitter reinstated the gray "Official" label,[54][55] after multiple users were suspended for deliberately impersonating reporters and high-profile athletes like LeBron James.[56][57] A viral tweet from an account purporting to be the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Company caused the company's stock to fall after announcing "insulin is free now".[58][59][60] As a result, Twitter disabled new Blue subscriptions on November 11, 2022.[61][62]

On December 12, 2022, Twitter Blue was relaunched again with some changes, including an increased price of $11 for users who sign up through iOS devices to compensate for the 30% cut imposed by Apple.[63] Twitter stated that only Twitter accounts older than 90 days and with a confirmed phone number are able to subscribe and Blue checkmarks are issued once Twitter reviews the account, and any changes to the profile "will result in the loss of the blue checkmark" until Twitter can review the account again.[2] The "Official" labels were replaced with Verified Organizations, which are displayed with a gold checkmark and square-shaped avatars (as opposed to circular avatars for all other accounts): this program costs $1,000 per-month, with Verified Organizations able to add verification to affiliated accounts for an additional fee of $50 per-month for each account.[64] Grey checkmarks were also added for government accounts on Twitter.[65]

Accounts that had been verified through the previous system were renamed to "legacy verified", with Musk calling the previous system "corrupt and nonsensical" in a tweet, and stating the blue checkmarks on those accounts would be removed "in a few months".[11][66] Musk claimed that the impersonation issue was resolved by manually reviewing all applications,[67] but The Washington Post tech columnist Geoffrey A. Fowler was able to create an impersonation account of senator Ed Markey,[a] which was promptly verified after subscribing to Twitter Blue and only suspended after Fowler's story was published.[69]

On April 24, 2023, a parody account of the defunct Disney Junior channel in the United Kingdom was verified with a gold checkmark.[70] The account, which tweeted profanities and claimed that South Park and Family Guy would be coming to Disney Junior,[71] became viral[72] and was later suspended.[73]

Removal of legacy verification edit

On March 23, 2023, Twitter announced that on April 1, 2023, it would begin winding down its legacy verification program and removing legacy verified checkmarks.[74][75] The New York Times reported that exceptions would be made for Twitter's top 500 advertisers and its 10,000 most-followed organizations that had been previously verified.[76][77] Buzzfeed News reported that multiple news organizations like The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times had no plans to pay for Twitter's "Verified Organizations" service nor would they reimburse reporters for having Twitter Blue.[78] Similarly, Axios reported that White House digital strategy director Rob Flaherty sent an internal email to staffers saying "[t]here are ongoing trials for the program that we are monitoring, but we will not enroll in it."[79]

Twitter did not immediately begin removing checkmarks on April 1, 2023. The Washington Post reported that "[the removal] of verification badges is a largely manual process powered by a system prone to breaking" and "[i]n the past, there was no way to reliably remove badges at a bulk scale", according to former Twitter employees.[80] However, on April 2, 2023, the main account for The New York Times became one of the first major media companies to lose its verified status on Twitter. The loss of verification came after Musk replied "Oh ok, we'll take it off then"[81] to a Twitter user who tweeted that The New York Times would not pay for Twitter verification.[82] He criticised the newspaper for tweeting hundreds of posts every day, including drafts that were not accepted into the published editions of the paper, and inundating the daily feed of users who followed it.[83] Despite the deadline for Twitter Blue passing, and aside from The New York Times, many legacy verified accounts continued to retain their verified status. Twitter also updated the language previously used to distinguish between legacy and Twitter Blue-verified users, merging them into a single description,[84][85] and later unfollowed all legacy verified accounts.[86] On April 11, 2023, Musk announced the final date for removing legacy blue checkmarks to be April 20.[87][88]

Despite skepticism due to the chosen date,[89][90] Twitter began removing legacy checkmarks on April 20, 2023.[91][92] Among those that lost their verified status included Cristiano Ronaldo and Beyoncé.[93] Following the removal of legacy verification, Twitter began verifying the accounts of several celebrities who had been critical of, and did not purchase Twitter Blue, including Stephen King, LeBron James, Hasan Piker, and dril.[94][95] Musk implied that he was paying for their subscriptions personally.[12][13] A day later, Twitter updated its policy for Twitter Ads requiring all advertisers to be subscribed to Verified Organizations,[96] but businesses spending at least $1000 a month in advertising would automatically receive membership in the Verified Organizations program at no additional cost.[97] On April 22, 2023, Twitter seemingly began issuing blue and gold[98] checkmarks to accounts with at least a million followers, including those belonging to deceased users such as Anthony Bourdain, Chadwick Boseman, and Kobe Bryant.[99][100] Since the blue checkmark now indicates an active Twitter Blue subscription, several high-profile users began looking for ways to remove it, usually by briefly changing their display name.[101][102]

On April 25, 2023, Musk announced that posts by verified accounts would now be prioritized ahead of unverified users, but behind those of the user's own follows, in replies to tweets.[103][104]

On April 30, 2023, multiple legacy verified users began noticing a bug that temporarily restored the legacy blue checkmark by changing their bio.[105][106]

On October 17, 2023, X announced that it would trial a scheme requiring new users who register via the website in New Zealand and the Philippines to pay US$1 per-year in order to use the platform. If the user does not subscribe, they will only receive read-only access to the platform. It was stated that this system was required to "bolster our already significant efforts to reduce spam, manipulation of our platform and bot activity."[107]

Significance and social impact edit

Prior to the introduction of paid Twitter verification after the acquisition of Twitter by Elon Musk, verified status was a highly sought-after qualification among Twitter users. Since Twitter alone granted blue checkmarks, they could use them as a passive inducement for users to create more content. Alison Hearn argued in 2017 that they introduce a new social class of Twitter users.[108] This can cause tension between verified and non-verified users of the site; when Twitter temporarily locked out verified accounts in the aftermath of the 2020 Twitter account hijacking, many non-verified users celebrated.[109][110]

After the blue checkmark was made available as a paid subscription in 2022, reporters noted trolls spreading conspiracy theories about COVID-19 vaccines using the checkmark to feign credibility.[111]

Several fake accounts surfaced following Twitter's move to eliminate the blue tick verification on April 20, 2023. An account pretending to be Hillary Clinton "announced" her intention to run for the presidency again. The said fake account used an identical profile photo as that of the former US senator's legitimate handle. Moreover, a new Twitter handle in New York City claimed to be a legitimate account representing the government. The BBC has noted that the increase in sponsored verification would heighten the spread of false information on the platform.[112]

Notes edit

  1. ^ This was done with the senator's consent.[68]

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