Why Twitter verification is a bit silly

Twitter’s verified tweeter process is less about verification and more about promotion

If you have a Twitter account, it’s highly likely that you’re following at least a few Tweeters who are ‘verified’ — celebrities, high-powered businessmen, sports stars, the (next) Pope.

Verification is a tag of authenticity. Represented by a blue tick on a user's profile page next to their name, it supposedly shows "high quality sources of information", suggesting you should "trust" their Tweets.

In recent months, Twitter’s verification team has been verifying an ever-increasing number of Australian Twitter users, usually in related groups. For example, in October 2012 a swathe of Australian Financial Review and Sydney Morning Herald journalists were blessed with blue ticks.

This morning, a bunch of Aussie technology journalists — myself included — received a direct message from @verified:

We at Twitter would like to verify your account. Please click this link and follow the instructions.

Click on the link, and you’re sent through a verification process of “three quick steps”. Here’s the problem, though — these steps have nothing to do with verifying your account, or your identity, in the way you’d expect.

At no point were there any identity-verifying questions asked, like: “Are you an Australian technology journalist, writing for @PCWorldAU?” “Did you write this brilliant story on DIY speakers?” “Are you even using your real name?”

Instead, the process is a vaguely educational and slightly condescending one, asking whether you can pick out which of two tweets is more engaging or more valuable to your followers. After that, you're encouraged to follow other verified Tweeters — which were, in my baffling case, Nicole Richie, Ellen DeGeneres, and Rihanna.

At the end of the process, you’re asked to associate a phone number with your newly-verified account, for easier contact in case of a security breach. In my case, a phone number was already associated, so no new personally-identifiable information was needed. And then you get a blue tick.

Twitter’s frequently asked questions page for verified accounts says that the company apparently does all of the grunt work for verifying, investigating users and reaching out to them when it feels the time is right:

Twitter proactively verifies accounts on an ongoing basis to make it easier for users to find who they’re looking for. We concentrate on highly sought users in music, acting, fashion, government, politics, religion, journalism, media, advertising, business, and other key interest areas. We verify business partners from time to time and individuals at high risk of impersonation.

As it stands, the coveted blue tick isn’t much of a badge of honour. It doesn’t really show that you are who you say you are on your profile, and Twitter certainly has no proof of that. The blue tick is more of a ‘Top Tweeter’ badge, showing that a complex algorithm on a server in San Francisco has determined that people might be interested in what you have to say — or not.

Twitter’s local presence has been growing at roughly the same rate as its verified account roll-out. The official @TwitterAU account was opened in October 2012, tweeting and retweeting news and stories relevant to Australian viewers and tweet-celebrating national occasions. The social media powerhouse is tipped to open an Australian corporate office “imminently”.

Update: Apparently choosing targets for the verification process is not so hands-off. Twitter collaborated on the latest round of blue ticks with Australian technology journalist and commentator Trevor Long, who curates a comprehensive list of Australian tech Twitterers.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Campbell Simpson

Campbell Simpson

PC World
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?