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Twitter to open account verification to everyone, says CEO Jack Dorsey

The small blue checkmarks that typically accompany the accounts of public officials, celebrities, and journalists may soon be open to everyone.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced that Twitter plans to allow any account holder to gain an identity verification checkmark.
  • Twitter envisioned the feature as a way to differentiate genuine accounts from imposters, though users view it as an endorsement of the user.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey commented in a Periscope livestream late Thursday that the company plans to extend account identity verification to all accounts. Dorsey stated:

The intention is to open verification to everyone. And to do it in a way that's scalable, where [Twitter] is not in the way, and people can verify more facts about themselves, and we don't have to be the judge or imply any bias on our part.

No specific timeline for the rollout of this was offered.

Twitter has faced significant difficulty finding a workable balance between simply verifying identity and the appearance of verification as endorsement. The company was sued by former American professional baseball player and Animal Rescue Foundation co-founder Tony La Russa in 2009 due to an account that impersonated him. Following that suit, Twitter announced the Verified Accounts program.

Verified accounts were initially limited to "public officials, public agencies, famous artists, athletes, and others" who were at risk of facing impersonation, with the first verified account, @CDCEmergency, belonging to the CDC's Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response. However, under the new rules, it could be easier for business leaders and well-known professionals to have their Twitter accounts verified as well.

In a statement to The Verge, Twitter director of product David Gasca indicated that "The main problem is, we use [the checkmark] to mean identity." The problem the company faces is that "In user research ... users think of it as credibility, [that] Twitter stands behind this person and what they're saying is great and authentic, which is not what we meant."

SEE: Social media policy (Tech Pro Research)

Dorsey has recently focused on transforming Twitter in an effort to promote "healthy debate, conversations, and critical thinking." Last November, the company expanded tweet length to 280 characters, and implemented a threads feature the following month.

However, the social media platform has struggled to come to a universally applicable solution for use of the verified status. Twitter's policy states the company will revoke verified status of people "Promoting hate and/or violence against, or directly attacking or threatening other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease," or "supporting organizations or individuals that promote the above." According to Engadget, the company began revoking the verified status of various prominent figures in alt-right and neo-nazi movements, including Richard Spencer. Similarly, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been continuously denied verification by Twitter.

In January, Twitter noted that blocking world leaders from the platform would "hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions," following an incident where US President Donald Trump inexplicably taunted North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un over the size of his "nuclear button." Shortly thereafter, a group of Mexican traders half-jokingly floated the idea of simply buying Twitter and shutting it down to achieve the same ends.

In February, the company announced its first profitable quarter "under generally acceptable accounting principles," according to ZDNet's Larry Dignan.

Also see

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Image: Megan Wollerton/CNET

About James Sanders

James Sanders is a Tokyo-based programmer and technology journalist. Since 2013, he has been a regular contributor to TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research.

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