One of the biggest bugbears of social media is trolling: attacking individuals based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or politics. If you’re a woman with the temerity to hold an opinion of any kind you’ll be subject to abuse, threats of sexual violence, and even the murder of your children. If you have the audacity to star in a remake of an 80s kid’s film, then God help you.
And all of this is made possible by anonymity.
Twitter has offered the famous the option of a verified account for a while, principally to help fans navigate the multitude of parody, tribute, and troll accounts that spring up around celebrity. The process for account verification has previously been extremely opaque, and only 0.05% of Twitter accounts are currently verified; however Twitter is now offering the option to apply for verification to all users.
Verification allows you to filter out trolls
Note, that Twitter is allowing all users to apply, you won’t necessarily be approved for verification. To be accepted Twitter needs to decide that verifying your account is in the public interest. To meet the minimum acceptance criteria you’ll need: a verified phone number, a confirmed email address, a bio, a profile photo, a header photo, a birthday, a website, and to set your tweets to public.
There’s no clarification from Twitter on how long you’ll have to wait, or whether it’s relaxing its internal acceptance criteria.
Being verified on Twitter changes the experience in one fundamental way: the notification system allows verified accounts to filter replies to only show other verified accounts. In other words, verification allows you to filter out trolls.
This attempt to tackle abusive behavior will ultimately result in a two-tier Twitter
For most people, anonymity on social media is irrelevant. But for many, anonymity online is essential: Equality campaigners in Saudi Arabia, pro-democracy protestors in China, even the furry fan who prefers not to share his pastime with his co-workers. And furthermore, there are millions of users who simply want to partition their online and offline lives.
The danger with verification is that those people who cannot be verified for their own safety, or won’t be verified because they prefer not to be, are excluded from the global conversation. And this attempt to tackle abusive behavior will ultimately result in a two-tier Twitter, one for the Kardashian-like, and one for the rest of us.