Opinion

Twitter’s verification process ignores the reality of notability

We’ve all heard of this particular hypothetical scenario. If we go to greet 100 people, or read 100 comments, and just one of those interactions or remarks were negative, it’s that single instance which will overshadow the 99 positive ones. For a post on Twitter verification, one might wonder how this idea applies, but it underpins the social media’s approach to ‘blue ticks’ which is seeing more than 90 disabled people’s requests to be verified rejected.

Under Twitter’s current requirements for activists, accounts need to demonstrate both on-platform and off-platform notability. In terms of the former, accounts either need to be in the top 0.05% of active accounts in the same geographic region (either in terms of follower count or volume of conversation), or have launched a “hashtag movement that is capturing a large volume of conversation within a given community”.

Meanwhile, off-platform notability concerns a Google Trends profile with “evidence of recent search activity”, a “stable” Wikipedia page, three or more references in qualifying news outlets within the last six months, or the account or person being listed on an official advocacy website. You would need to meet both one on-platform and off-platform criterion in order to get the famous blue tick.

Before I refer back to the aforementioned scenario in this article’s opening, a quick word on the “hashtag movement” requirement: only focussing on activism conducted within the confines of a hashtag is simply reductionist. I understand Twitter needs some metrics to determine how prominent someone is on their own social media platform, but ascertaining activism through hashtags seriously undersells the work that disabled activists do on Twitter, such as detailed threads responding to a relevant news story, for example.

Yet, as the current list of 90+ disabled activists rejected for verification demonstrates, those who meet this bizarre requirement through popular and important hashtags such as #NoMoreCRAPtions, #JustAskDontGrab and #NEISVoid still aren’t being verified. What is going on, and what exactly do they mean by a “large volume of conversation”?

For many disabled activists, their campaigning on Twitter is more than just a clicky hashtag, so it falls to the strict requirements around following, despite disabled people being part of a marginalised community which is still ignored by a large amount of the population, and this includes on social media platforms such as Twitter.

So it’s baffling that there is a possibility that Twitter will reject a prominent campaigner with tons of external proof of their notability, just because they don’t meet Twitter’s criteria for its own platform. This brings us back to the hypothetical greetings and comments at the top of the article. Why? Because there’s every chance that Twitter is looking at the one Twitter criterion as a reason for rejecting verification, rather than the 99 pieces of off-platform evidence which demonstrates that an individual is notable.

A good example of this happened with Tom Cruise. Not long after a very convincing deepfake account started teasing and impersonating the Mission Impossible star, the actor had set up his own profile on the shortform video platform – most likely to indicate to his fans that @deeptomcruise isn’t him. He still hasn’t posted anything on his profile too, I should add, but TikTok nonetheless bestowed him with a tick for authenticity.

This not only proves just how nonsensical it is that impersonation is not a factor in verification decisions, but also that on-platform activity does not, on its own, determine notability. Sometimes an account is already notable elsewhere (in the media, on other social media platforms – even though they aren’t considered by Twitter – the list goes on), and the logical conclusion is to go with the flow, as it were.

Yet here we are. 90 disabled activists have had their verification requests rejected by Twitter, and that number is rising.

The platform needs to #VerifyDisabledTwitter, and fast.

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