Everybody remembers when Twitter began verifying accounts. When it started, the process favored the famous: entertainers and athletes led the way with media personalities and politicians quickly following. Getting verified required being famous or having a connection that could work behind the scenes to get it done. It’s often why you’d find a Twitter friend or some schlep with 50 followers with a blue checkmark.
The way they rolled it out made the process like a badge of honor — as if it were social media bar of excellence. They never explained their reasons for creating it in a meaningful way, and it left people wondering, “How do I get verified?” People wanted to get verified for the sake of doing so.
Once the process opened up, and Twitter began accepting applications, the status made more sense. Verification was meant only for one thing: to guarantee an identity or brand.
Which is why Twitter’s decision to cave to social justice warriors and remove verification from people like the alt-right leader, Richard Spencer. Spencer’s Twitter feed is mostly a bread-basket of white nationalist garbage mixed with semi-intellectual blathering meant to give his insidious views an air of legitimacy. Twitter revoked his verification after people began complaining the check made it appear as though Twitter gave his views legitimacy.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The blue checkmark made it easier for people to report on something Spencer said and know it was him or somebody authorized to tweet on his behalf. The same goes for other accounts held by bigots. By removing the checkmarks, Twitter only made it more difficult to identify these bozos.
Naturally, it raises the question of standards. Why do Seth Abramson or Eric Garland keep their verification mark? Abramson and Garland have fashioned themselves as the Sherlock Holmes and Dick Tracy of the Twittersphere, but they’re really more like oddball versions of Alex Jones, spouting inane conspiracy theories about Donald Trump and Russia. Have you ever seen one of Abramson’s tweet-storms? It’s like watching Oliver Stone’s JFK while on an acid trip after a three-day tequila bender. Add Louise Mensch to the mix, and you have the Twitter Trio of Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. It’s difficult to calculate the number of lies and far-flung theories they’ve spread with almost zero evidence.
Trump does enough on his own to cause himself harm and give his political adversaries, ammunition to call for his impeachment. Abramson, Mensch, and Garland offer nothing of value to the public beyond the kind of news only a rabid Trump hater would believe (much in the same way Spencer does with his white nationalist garbage). In reality, they make the editors of the Weekly World News — the purveyors of Batboy — come off as Pulitzer winners.
It’s what makes Twitter’s verification system a joke. It should be allowed for anybody who wants to put their name in the public sphere so people can know they’re dealing with a real person. The ability for people to make anonymous accounts, the countless bots and general anonymity of Twitter should make it easier for people to acquire verification, not harder.
Twitter does a disservice to the platform and to their credibility when they arbitrarily choose who can and cannot acquire verification. It’s their platform of course. Nobody can tell them what to do but that doesn’t make it right.