Some tweeters are more equal than others.
After the Charlottesville riot, Twitter officially “paused” its verification program, recognizing that the coveted blue check conveys authority and endorsement, rather than simply an authenticating procedure. In November, the company tweeted that “Verification was meant to authenticate identity & voice but it is interpreted as an endorsement or an indicator of importance.” The company continued, “We recognize that we have created this confusion and need to resolve it. We have paused all general verifications while we work and will report back soon.”
Verification was meant to authenticate identity & voice but it is interpreted as an endorsement or an indicator of importance. We recognize that we have created this confusion and need to resolve it. We have paused all general verifications while we work and will report back soon
— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) November 9, 2017
Since the program’s pause, celebrities and journalists alike have found themselves struggling to prove they are who they say they are, and are also barred from the cool kids club that takes shape among those who only follow verified handles. In January, Fast Company reported that after a couple months of unverifying certain accounts– “mostly white nationalists and conspiracy theorists” — the company had quietly begun verifying a few accounts, without spelling out its rationale. Journalists wrung their hands and bombarded customer support with requests, mostly to no avail.
And yet today, prominent New Yorker journalist Jane Mayer discovered that some journalists get to cut the line after all.
At 6:40 am, the longtime writer — author of Dark Money and co-author with Ronan Farrow of the piece that brought Deborah Ramirez’s story about Brett Kavanaugh allegedly exposing himself to the nation’s attention — tweeted to @Twitter and @TwitterSupport asking, “please verify my account.” Over a hundred replies quickly took up the case.
Less than an hour later, at 7:24 am, Mayer had her blue check. She sent out a tweet thanking the company and her many fans who helped apply pressure. Fellow journalist Yashar Ali called it the “Fastest verification I’ve ever seen” and the achievement had earned Mayer over 5,000 likes in less than 12 hours.
Other writers who have struggled to attain the magical punctuation expressed their own frustration, such as Lynn Sherr, author of SALLY RIDE: America’s First Woman in Space, who asked Mayer how to unlock her own magical blue punctuation mark.
Thank you Tweeps and thank you @twitter– amazingly, I am verified!
— Jane Mayer (@JaneMayerNYer) October 10, 2018
The problem here is as obvious as the solution is elusive. Even fans of Mayer seem to regard the check mark not as a sign that you are you say you are (and that you’re of some import to others), but as an endorsement of a particular member’s values.
One commenter called AllisonFromThe401 wrote, “My god @twitterHow can you verify creepers like Michael Moates, who has been credibly accused of plagiarism and acting inappropriately with underage girls, and not a female NYer staff writer??”
There is not an easy fix here. If the company verifies everyone, it’s the same as verifying no one. So that means discretion has to be applied. And once that happens, human bias inevitably enters the equation. But the broad strokes for now seem pretty clear: sympathize with nazis, no blue check; unearth accusations about a Supreme Court nominee amid a long career at America’s most prestigious magazine, and you got a good shot.