It was on 9 June when Twitter passed judgement on my notability and authenticity: “unfortunately, your request to verify your account has been denied.” The so-called ‘blue tick’, long sought after by many users on the platform, was on offer to accounts again after Twitter recently re-opened applications, but alas, it was not to be bestowed upon me on this occasion.
There are moments where it feels a little egotistical of me to complain that I didn’t receive a tiny blue icon which classes my journalism and campaigning as “notable”, but when you spend time listing your previous achievements and successes, only to receive a short rejection email, it’s understandable that someone’s pride may be somewhat dented by such a brief dismissal.
As disappointing as it is, I’ve had to march on, hoping that the 30-day countdown before I can apply again goes as quickly as possible.
I had already written about my hopes that impersonation would be an important factor for consideration when it comes to verification (after another account chose to impersonate me once I called out ableism), but in a Twitter Space on 4 June, an employee from Twitter’s trust team revealed that “impersonation is not something we’re taking into consideration”. This is despite the fact that this act of malice is often deployed against marginalised creators.
Up until this point, this article may read as an exercise in self-pity, except it soon became clear that I wasn’t the only disabled person who had had their verification request rejected. Dr Amy Kavanagh, a visually impaired activist and a good friend of mine with more than 28,000 followers, tweeted on 3 June: “Feeling disappointed that @Verified denied my application hours after submission. I provided MULTIPLE instances of news coverage over the last 6 to 12 months and referenced my #JustAskDontGrab campaign, a hashtag used thousands of times.
“But all of that dismissed in an afternoon.”
Viewing this tweet, in isolation, as evidence that Twitter’s verification system is unfairly dismissing disabled influencers would be ill-advised, and several outlets did turn down my pitch on this issue – no doubt because it is, at the moment, purely anecdotal.
But even so, Amy isn’t the only prominent disabled person to have had their application rejected. There’s a long list:
- Dr Amy Kavanagh: Visually impaired activist and founder of #JustAskDontGrab
- Dr Hannah Barham-Brown: Disabled campaigner and deputy leader of the Women’s Equality Party, a registered political party in the UK
- Kate Stanforth: Model, dancer and activist
- Justin Yarbrough: Blind freelance journalist and accessibility expert
- Brandon Cole: Award-winning blind accessibility advocate and video game consultant
- Grayson Schultz: Disability activist and sex educator
- Charis Hill: Disabled writer, speaker, and activist
- Rikki Poynter: Deaf YouTuber and campaigner
- Marin Kayden: Autistic activist
- Gui Fernandes: Deaf YouTuber
- Dan Malito: Disabled gamer
- Katie Pennick: Accessible transport campaigner
- Angharad Paget Jones: Accessibility consultant
- Faith Martin: Disabled journalist
- Sara Luterman: Disabled journalist
- Justin G: Disabled activist
- Teona Studemire: Disabled queer writer and Twitch streamer
- Matthew Cortland: Chronically ill and disabled writer *
- Wonder Cripple: Disabled activist
- Peter Morley: Disabled patient advocate
- NASCAR Sammy: Autism advocate
- Shona Louise: Disabled writer, photographer and theatre blogger
- Ellis Palmer: BBC journalist
- Anna Czaman: Disability activist
- Alan Chaulet: Chief Operating Officer at wheelchair crash-test company All Wheels Up.
- Alim Jayda: Hard of hearing presenter, actor and sign language interpreter
- Jennifer Kretchmer: Disabled producer, actor, bestselling author, tabletop game designer and streamer
- Robin Wilson-Beattie: Disabled sex and reproductive health educator
- Lucy Dawson: Disabled model and activist
- Tony Government: Disabled activist
- Silver: Disabled creator
- Ana: Deaf content creator
- MysticMoon: Disabled designer
- Clinton Lexa: Accessibility Product Manager at Ubisoft
- Chris Robinson: Known online as DeafGamersTV, Chris is a Deaf accessibility reviewer and consultant
- Dermot Devlin: Founder of the disabled rights and disability blog, My Way Access
- Emma Vogelmann: Policy advisor at the disability charity Scope, freelance writer and disability consultant
- Cristina Serråo: Lived Experience Ambassador in NHS England and Improvement working on bringing coproduction to forefront of healthcare.
- Tanja Kollodzieyski: Disabled blogger and literary scientist
- Jen Southall: Deaf professional athlete and accessibility advocate
- Katherine Kampko: Disabled model, actor, activist and inclusion consultant
- Tiara Mercius: Disability activist and juris doctorate (JD)
- Pete Wharmby: Autistic writer and speaker *
- Gabe Cazares: Disabled accessibility advocate
- Kayle Hill: Disability advocate and writer
- Courtney Craven: Founder of Can I Play That?
- ‘Autistic Science Person’: Autistic neuroscience graduate
- Sabrina Epstein: Disabled person working in public health policy
- The Autisticats: A group of autistic activists
- Matthew Broberg-Moffitt: Autistic kid lit and cookbook writer
- Tara Voelker: Xbox Accessibility Program Manager
- John Loeppky: Disabled freelance writer
- Mark Webb: Disabled speaker
- Suswati Basu: Former ITV and Channel 4 News journalist
- Cara Lisette: Mental health blogger and eating disorder campaigner
- René Brooks: ADHD campaigner
- Shannon Dingle: Disabled author
- Liam O’Dell: Deaf freelance journalist and campaigner *
- Dr Zoë Ayres: Mental health advocate
- Darrell Bowles: Accessibility consultant
- Robert Kingett: Freelance journalist and advocate
- Kaitlyn Yang: VFX supervisor
- Rachael Rose: Disability advocate
- Dr Liz Powell: Disabled psychologist, author and speaker
- Brianne Benness: Chronically ill podcaster and #NEISVoid founder
- Morénike Giwa Onaiwu: Disability, race, gender and HIV justice advocate and writer
- Zipporah: Disabled queer writer
- Izzie Jani-Friend: Disabled journalist and campaigner
- Sara Gibbs: Autistic author and activist
- Syreeta Nolan: Disabled writer
- Veronica Lewis: Visually impaired blogger
- Laura McConnell: Autistic and dyslexic writer, keynote speaker and radio presenter
- Haley Moss: Autistic author and attorney
- Margaret Gel: Disabled writer
- Paul Amadeus Lane: Accessibility consultant and TV and radio personality
- Antonio I. Martinez: Disabled gamer
- Morgan Baker: Deaf game developer and accessibility advocate
- Melly Maeh: Accessible gaming campaigner and blogger
- Luke Sam Sowden: Blind blogger
- Lauren Deluca: President and executive director of Chronic Illness Advocacy and Awareness Group (CIAAG)
- Ben Canham: Autistic advocate and YouTuber
- Dax Everritt: Disabled blogger
- Sarah Boon: Autistic blogger
- John Pring: Disabled journalist and editor of Disability News Service *
- Alicia Jarvis: Digital accessibility specialist, researcher and strategist
- Craig Ceecee: Disabled meteorologist
- Rebecca Cokley: Civil rights activist *
- Kathryn O’Driscoll: Disabled spoken word artist and poet
- Sarah Kurchak: Autistic author
- Wille Zante: Deaf writer and journalist
- Dr Frances Ryan: Disabled Guardian columnist and journalist (Frances has since been verified)
- Natasha Lipman: Chronically ill blogger and journalist
- Johnnie Jae: Disabled journalist, speaker, podcaster and advocate
- Gemma Stevenson: ICU World Champion, freelance broadcaster and journalist
- Lelainia Lloyd: Disabled artist and writer
- Amy Gravino: Autism sexuality advocate, consultant, author and international speaker
- Lydia Wilkins: Disabled journalist
- Kay Barrett: Disabled poet and cultural strategist
- Siena Castellon: Autistic neurodiversity advocate
- Karli Drew: Disabled activist and copywriter
- Hannah Hodgson: Disability activist and poet
- Autistic PB: Autism advocate and mental health activist
- Carlyn Zwarenstein: Freelance journalist and writer
- Allison Wallis: Freelance journalist and activist
- Rachael Gass: Commissioner on the DC Commission on Persons with Disabilities
- Tom Byford: Founder of @LGBTDisability
- Dr Kara Ayers: Disabled professor, researcher, writer and speaker
- Ashley Hubbard: Freelance journalist and ADHD activist
- Karen Kaiser (a.k.a. The Muslim Hippie): Mental health blogger and advocate
- Zemen Sarah Berhe: Black and disabled mental health activist and chemist
- Punteha van Terheyden: Disabled British-Iranian journalist
- Jade Bryan: Award-winning filmmaker and activist
* – Individuals who have later been verified on further attempts
Organisations are also affected, such as:
- Open Style Lab, a New York-based non-profit which works to make style accessible to everyone, and worked on a disability-friendly deodorant with Unilever.
- Can I Play That?, a website dedicated to accessibility reviews of video games.
- CreakyJoints.org, a digital community offering support to millions of arthritis patients and caregivers.
- Deutscher Gehörlosen-Bundn (German Federation of the Deaf), the national association for deaf people in Germany.
- Transport for All, a UK-based pan-impairment organisation with a focus on making travel accessible to disabled and older people.
- CommunicationFIRST, a US-based non-profit organisation dedicated to supporting individuals who “are unable to rely on speech alone to be understood”.
- Special Needs Jungle, a non-profit organisation which offers “resources, training and information for parents and carers of children and young people with special needs and disabilities”.
I’m sure there’s more people and organisations I have failed to pick up on. If that’s you, reach out to me on Twitter, and I’ll get you added.
Twitter is aware of this in some regard. One employee, speaking in an unofficial capacity, has already voiced their frustrations, and the social media platform plans to roll out a voluntary demographic survey “to better understand if our verification process is fair and unbiased”.
A Twitter spokesperson tells me over email: “Having a fair, equitable verification process is a priority and we strive to be consistent in how we’re assessing verification applications based on our policy criteria […] We’re working to introduce a voluntary demographic survey in the near future and will have more to share soon.”
Amid speculation that some applications could be processed automatically, the spokesperson went on to confirm that “trained agents” review each application against Twitter’s “official policy”. Of course, they couldn’t comment on individual cases, but shared common reasons for rejections, such as:
- Their official website input doesn’t link to qualifying website (Wikipedia, blog post or personal website are not considered qualifying)
- The email address to confirm authenticity in the application should be not be a personal email address
- The official website that the person uses in their application doesn’t link to a website referencing the applicant’s name and/or Twitter account
- News articles that reference the person are not from verified publications
There’s also the matter of timings. When I applied, I was told the process could “take up to seven days”. It actually took a couple of weeks, but people have been rejected in a matter of hours. Why?
The spokesperson got back to me once again: “If an account is not qualified based on some of those common reasons [shown above] (such as submitting a personal email address to confirm authenticity for example), then that can be the cause of a shorter response time to their verification application.”
Yet disabled people are arguing that they did meet the criteria, and with the number of rejected disabled accounts rising, more and more people are beginning to suspect bias, even before Twitter has rolled out its voluntary survey to help identify any instance of this happening.
With thanks to Poppy Field (@P0ppyField) for her support with this investigation.