At long last, here’s an actually useful purpose for Twitter’s blue-check verification mark: Twitter last night announced that it is mobilising the badge system to help surface and signal more authoritative and verified voices that can provide “credible updates” on the topic of the coronavirus, and made a general call out for people that are experts to get all of their information up to date — including associating the word addresses with their accounts — to speed up this process.
This is the latest move from Twitter in what has been an ongoing effort to clear its platform of false information and the harmful spread of it as the pandemic increasingly takes its grip on the world.
The blue check mark was always intended to help steer people to know when they looking at more authentic voices or the official accounts for high-profile people or organizations, although it’s also been a huge vanity metric for many people, and so has often had a taint of the more ridiculous side of Twitter (the one where people also obsess over like and retweet counts). So harnessing it for a truly useful purpose is a great move.
It’s also one that is linking up with other efforts online: yesterday Google launched an updated search experience that includes a carousel of Twitter accounts Tweeting information related to the pandemic. This will help Twitter and Google populate that in a more informative and dynamic way.
If you are an expert who would like to use Twitter to broadcast more effective messages to the public, please read on. And if you are an authority who is not affiliated with one of the authorities working on fighting and managing the coronavirus outbreak, hold tight as Twitter said it will also be working on how to more quickly verify you, too.
Twitter said it is working with global health authorities — these include organizations like the WHO, the CDC, state health authorities and recognized academic institutions — to identify not just these organizations’ own accounts but those of experts affiliated with them. While it has it has “already Verified hundreds of accounts,” there are many more to verify, but the process is being slowed down by people not having all of their information in order. (Essentially these are some of the usual requirements for verification, applied specifically now to coronavirus experts.)
Specifically, Twitter said that experts needed to make sure that the email address that a person has associated with their Twitter account is their work emails. Instructions on how to do that here.
Then, Twitter said that a person’s bio needs to include references and a link to the place where they are working, and ideally that the page they are linking to also includes a reference back to the Twitter account (if it’s a link to a bio page). Instructions on how to update your profile here.
And accounts that are looking for verification, it goes without saying, have to follow the official Twitter Rules (which cover things like no harassment, impersonation accounts and so on), and specifically as it relates to coronavirus and COVID-19, Twitter’s guidance for that.
Twitter had, predictably, what looked like hundreds of responses to its Tweets on this subject, both from people simply saying, “Hey, what about me? Can I get verified today for my birthday?!” and those saying they also should be verified because of their authoritative position on COVID-19. Going about how to do the latter with accuracy will be a much bigger challenge that Twitter is still working out. “We’re also considering a way to take public suggestions, but first are reviewing the suggestions we have from global public health authorities and partners,” it concluded.