Opinion

Twitter appears to no longer allow ‘hashtag movements’ for verification

It looks like Twitter has just made it even harder for activists to be verified on the platform. My #VerifyDisabledTwitter campaign has already highlighted the significant number of disabled campaigners who are yet to receive the coveted blue tick (100+), with people now receiving emails with further details about their rejection – namely that the evidence provided by the individual doesn’t meet Twitter’s notability criteria. Now, however, the criteria may have changed.

Under Twitter’s current verification policy, “activists, organisers and other influential individuals” require both on-platform and off-platform notability to be verified. In terms of the latter, they need something like a Google Trends profile, a stable Wikipedia article or appearances in news outlets. As for the former, it’s either that they’re in the top 0.05% of active accounts in a specific geographic region – either as it is or in terms of mentions/internal signals – or they’ve established and are credited for “a hashtag movement that is capturing a large volume of conversation within a given community”.

You would only need to meet one of the three criteria under the ‘on-platform activity’ column, and yet, it seems that for those choosing to verify themselves under the activist category, the option to enter a “hashtag movement” is no longer available.

Instead, I’ve heard and seen from three separate sources that the response is simply: “You aren’t eligible for verification in this category. You have not met the minimum follower or mention threshold for your region that is required to be verified as an activist or influential individual.” Despite it still being listed under their official verification policy, it looks like the ‘hashtag movement’ way in has been shut off to everyone.

With marginalised accounts receiving small follower counts – one simple reason being that they’re marginalised voices – this heavy focus on the number of followers shuts out so many activists. It fails to recognise a basic principle which underpins social media campaigning on platforms such as Twitter when it comes to underrepresented individuals.

And to be clear, I also have my criticisms around the reductionist idea of a ‘hashtag movement’ too, given it doesn’t acknowledge the nuance of activism. It’s good this criteria could possibly have been removed by Twitter, but the remaining two options are useless. Even with a small number of followers, disabled activists are notable within the community, and they’re making an impact.

The solution to this is simple, and one I’ve mentioned before: Twitter needs to amend the policy so that on-platform notability isn’t the deciding factor in a verification decision. Impact – and therefore, notability – can happen in the media and other areas away from Twitter. Another idea, similar to verifying individuals associated with notable businesses, is to verify those with strong links to disability charities and initiatives. These organisations consider the individual to be influential when it comes to outreach work, so why not consider this evidence of a campaigner’s notability?

In addition to the 100+ disabled individuals and organisations who have had their applications rejected, the fact that Twitter’s form for activists is now solely dependent on follower count, despite the official policy stating otherwise, is further proof that the system is failing activists – specifically disabled campaigners.

This has to change. Now.

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