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On a regular basis, Twitter provides incremental updates to the way its service operates, usually in response to user demands or shifts in the social media landscape. And one part of its service that has been under scrutiny recently is its “little blue check,” which helps to verify the authenticity of accounts. While the little blue check was originally intended as a way to help users verify who they were interacting with, there has recently been a lot of debate about what the “little blue check” really means and who should be able to get one next to their account.
So, in December 2020, Twitter announced plans to relaunch verification, with an aim towards better defining what verification means, who might be eligible for verification, and why some accounts might lose verification. Here’s what you need to know…
1 – Twitter is holding firm to its “minimum follower” standard
One major way to determine which accounts are “notable” is to require a minimum follower count. Twitter is not making any major changes here, but has conceded that it will adapt its minimum follower counts by region, and not just by country. In theory, this will help to amplify important local voices who have not yet achieved national or global significance.
2 – Twitter is expanding and updating some categories
Here’s where things start to get a little interesting. There are a few incremental changes coming, such as updating the “sports” category to include “sports and esports” and the “news” category to include “news and journalists.” In the latter case, it might mean that an independent journalist not officially affiliated with a major media outlet such as the New York Times or Washington Post can still get a blue check. And Twitter has also designated “activists, organizers and other influential individuals” as a sort of catchall category to capture people who might not neatly fit into any other category. For example, Twitter has noted that top COVID-19 experts (and other medical practitioners following the mainstream media narrative) will also be eligible for blue check marks.
3 – Twitter could start to take away blue check marks from individuals
And, finally, Twitter has announced that it is re-thinking how and why some accounts might lose verification. In the past, this has meant that accounts that were no longer active could lose verification. But, in our polarized political environment, it also means that Twitter could start to come up with various ways to take away “little blue check marks” from individuals that it is looking to penalize, marginalize or punish. For example, much has been made of the fact that Twitter is getting more aggressive with President Donald Trump even before he leaves the White House. And will Twitter seek to marginalize powerful “MAGA” or “Fight for Trump” accounts in 2021, even if these accounts meet all other standards for a “notable” Twitter account?
Twitter’s little blue check mark still has value as a way of authenticating accounts and helping individuals make sense of the busy Twitterverse. At the very least, it can help users distinguish between real accounts and fake or parody accounts. And it can help them discern whether they are communicating with a bot or a real human. But let’s hope that the “little blue check mark” doesn’t become politicized in 2021, as Twitter attempts to drive the narrative around events like the pandemic or around key political issues.