News

Twitter quietly changes its verification criteria for activists

Twitter deleted the option for activists to include a ‘hashtag movement’ as part of their request to be verified on the platform, and didn’t inform users about the change, Liam O’Dell can confirm.

The process for verification on Twitter, which comes in the form of the coveted blue badge, was relaunched in May, following an almost four-year pause in applications from November 2017. A year later, the social media site revealed it had dropped work on verification in favour of election integrity.

As part of the platform’s new verification policy, on which Twitter invited public feedback last year, “activists, orgnaizers and other influential individuals” have to demonstrate that they are in the top 0.05% for followers or conversations, or are “widely credited for creating a hashtag movement that is capturing a large volume of conversation within a given community”. This is in addition to meeting one of the criteria for ‘off-platform notability’.

However, this website can reveal that the ‘hashtag movement’ option was quietly removed from Twitter’s verification policy earlier this week – with the paragraph deleted sometime between 20:26 GMT on Monday and 00:44 GMT on Tuesday, according to the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

While Twitter’s @verified account tweeted on 9 July that for “those applying as an activist/influential individual, your follower count must be in the top .05% of active accounts located in the same geographic region”, the platform is yet to mention the removal of the ‘hashtag movement’ criteria.

The change came as disabled activists reported seeing a new rejection message when they tried to apply in the mobile app under the activist category.

“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,” the message reads.

In a tweet posted last Sunday, Canadian disability campaigner Karli Drew wrote: “I waited the full 30 days, and now it’s ‘mysteriously’ not letting me reapply because my follower-count isn’t enough for my region. 14.6k for a Canadian disabled activist should suffice *at least* to apply.”

More recently, chronically ill and #DemolishDisabledPoverty campaigner Matthew Cortland, who boasts more than 41,000 followers on the platform, posted a screengrab of the new rejection message and added: “‘Go to hell’ would have been shorter @twitter – so much for ‘you can try again after 30 days’.”

Matthew has since been verified by Twitter.

The reports confirm an earlier article by Liam O’Dell on Monday, in which it was noted that Twitter no longer allowed people to share a popular ‘hashtag movement’ in their application.

“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,” it reads.

When approached by this website to confirm the change, a spokesperson for Twitter said they are “constantly reviewing” their criteria for verification, as well as decisions on applications, to “help us understand how we can make verification more equitable”.

“We plan to iterate and improve the criteria for all categories over time based on our observations and public feedback,” they added.

Their comment came the same day as Twitter Verified tweeted about its voluntary demographic survey at the end of the application process, echoing an announcement already made by a Twitter product director earlier last month.

Liam O’Dell reached out to Twitter for early preliminary data on the number of disabled people who are having verification requests rejected, but was told they cannot share data at the moment.

Speaking to this website on Friday, Twitter said that the original purpose of the ‘hashtag movement’ option was for it to be considered evidence of notability, but they have since learned that it was an insufficient way to measure this, and it was hard to prove whether an account met the requirement. The option was removed as a result.

The latest version of Twitter verification policy can be found on its website.


Image of rejection message courtesy of Alim Jayda.

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