The moment is surreal. A blue tick on Twitter, long considered elitist and prestigious, feels weird when it’s now affixed to your profile. After a period of unsuccessful award entries for my journalism, it’s nice to know that someone at the social media platform considers my articles about a priest wanting to baptise an alligator and a Scottish hotel shaped like the poop emoji to be “notable”.
Yet that’s kind of the point. I wasn’t an exception to the rule which is seeing more than 100 disabled activists have their verification requests denied. I got lucky, simply because I’m fortunate enough to write for The Independent, Indy100 and other news outlets as part of my day job. The issue of reputable disabled people not getting the blue tick they so rightly deserve – communicated through my #VerifyDisabledTwitter campaign – remains, and just because I’ve got a fancy tick next to my name now doesn’t mean I’m going to shut up about it. To stop campaigning now once I have benefitted and others continue not to would be opportunistic, exploitative, and go against the very morals and ethics of campaigning which I like to pride myself on.
So to be clear – in case it wasn’t already – I am not stopping. There’s countless disabled advocates worthy of verification and I won’t shut up until they get it. It’s also important from a journalistic perspective that I continue drawing attention to something which now, given its magnitude, has to be more than a series of isolated rejections. There is clearly something systemically wrong here.
I’ve also seen conversations take place around verification and what it represents. Do disabled people really have to get so worked up over a little blue tick that means nothing in terms of the real world?
Yes. Yes they do.
I’ve read other disabled people’s reasoning for this, and a lot of it stems down to the fact that verification brings further visibility to a person’s account, and with that, no doubt, comes further publicity, work and media opportunities. I was verified on Wednesday, and in such a short timeframe, I am getting a large amount of follows already. Granted, the tweet announcing my blue tick has done very well, but I’d like to think there were other factors in addition to my #VerifyDisabledTwitter campaign.
Before I go into what’s coming next in terms of that project, I want to provide a run through of how I carried out my application, should it be helpful for fellow disabled journalists. First of all, Twitter’s recent advice for reporters was very helpful in getting me that blue tick, which is in contrast to some of the individual responses they have provided to disabled people who have been rejected recently. You really do need to include the outlet in your bio and in the website link to boost your chances. In my case, I had to rewrite my bio just to make it as to-the-point as possible that I wrote for Indy100. If you write for a national outlet, please do the same. You can change it back without a hitch, though.
The second point is to utilise every URL field for articles that you can. I have no doubt that part of the reason my first application was denied was because I naively assumed that the three text fields they provide to begin with would be enough. Wrong. It turns out you can add up to 10 bylines, and if you aren’t utilising every single one of those text fields (I suspect you are, and I’m the only one that didn’t clock the fact you could add more) then you really should.
However, I know the majority of people to whom I’m speaking right now are disabled activists, for whom the category of interest is ‘activist’ – one which now only focusses on follower/mention count and not ‘hashtag movements’ as well, despite Twitter’s own official policy saying the opposite. Some individuals are reporting that the ‘verification request’ option under their account settings has suddenly disappeared when it was there previously.
In essence, verification is a bit of a mess (when was it not, some might ask…)
I’m trying to bring all of this to the attention of the mainstream media. Before I set up the campaign, I pitched this issue to several outlets without success. Understandably, their argument was that it was merely anecdotal, but as the number of activists who have had their requests rejected keeps climbing (now at 100+), the harder it is to say that there is not something terribly wrong here, as I said previously. I’m hoping some coverage will come soon – watch this space.
Meanwhile, keep sharing and retweeting tweets with the #VerifyDisabledTwitter hashtag. Seeing more and more accounts and individuals talking about the campaign in recent weeks has been fantastic to see. Heck, even the UK’s leading charity for blind people, the RNIB, has thrown their weight behind #VerifyDisabledTwitter. Together with the ever-increasing list of names (which I’m still adding to, by the way – keep messaging me to be added), we’re making this issue harder for Twitter to ignore.
Onwards and upwards…