Who gets Twitter’s highly coveted blue checkmark has always been a contentious topic. While Twitter has traditionally offered verification to individuals “of note”, there is no clear definition of who fits this profile and who doesn’t.
Now, with tech billionaire Elon Musk at the helm of affairs at Twitter, he’s proposing giving verification badges to everyone that can pay for it. While it might sound great to some at first, there are serious downsides to it. Let’s take a look.
1. Eroding the Exclusivity Associated with Verification
On Twitter, people with verified accounts are some of the most vocal opponents of Elon Musk’s plan to give out blue ticks to anyone that can pay. This is understandable to some extent. They’ll probably lose their Twitter status if everyone suddenly becomes Twitter royalty. The status quo offers exclusiveness, something Elon Musk frowns at and describes as a “lords and peasants system”.
Elon Musk wants to smash this divide. However, let’s face it, a lot of people want to get verified because it gives them that feel of exclusivity. Like money, an item is more coveted and valuable when it’s scarce. Right now, the verification badge is a scarce digital commodity, an infinite supply diminishes its appeal.
If you’re verified, the guy next door is verified and so are all your neighbors, the verification badge is never going to be the same again.
But it could also create another divide—one based on who can afford a Twitter Blue subscription versus those who cannot, without external markers like success or notice in a field being a determining factor to who gets verified.
2. Pseudo-Anonymity Might Be Gone
One of the best things about Twitter is being able to say your mind under the cover of anonymity. Unlike social networks like Facebook, Twitter doesn’t enforce an official real-name policy. You can choose to tweet with your real name, brand name, or an anonymous account.
This pseudo-anonymity is very important for a lot of Twitter users. You can, say, criticize repressive governments without fear of being identified and victimized. You can anonymously have fun like a regular person without being held to the standards that society expects from a person of your status.
“Verification for all” runs a great risk of pushing Twitter towards being a de-facto real-name-only platform. You’ll have to identify who you are to get the blue checkmark while giving up your anonymity in the process. Sure, under the current Twitter verification proposal, you’ll have the option of not being verified, so you can continue tweeting anonymously.
Unfortunately, an open-for-all verification model might lead to a platform where unverified accounts are dismissed or even treated with disdain while only those with the blue checkmark being taken seriously. This would indirectly pressurize people to get verified and lose anonymity in the process.
3. Fake Accounts Might Skyrocket
One of Elon Musk’s biggest concern about Twitter is the number of spam accounts and bots on the Twitter platform. In one of his several tweets on the subject, he vowed to “defeat the spam bots or die trying.”
This is indeed a cause worth fighting for, but there’s a small problem with using verification to fight off the bots. Imagine an account being verified but later changing its handle or display name to something similar to a government organization or a celebrity account. Say an account with a blue checkmark changes its handle to @whiteh0use to impersonate @whitehouse. Or maybe something like @twitter_support to impersonate @twitterSupport, all this while having a blue tick?
If there are no strong countermeasures in place, it could be an open season for criminals. Hey look, I’m Twitter support, and I’ve even got a blue checkmark, I must be credible right? Now give me your password.
This is not some theoretical idea, verified accounts changing their handle to scam people has already been happening. Twitter’s founder Jack Dorsey had to publicly comment on the issue back in 2018. With millions of accounts being suddenly verified, you can only imagine how many fakes will pop up.
4. An Exodus of High-Profile Accounts
In Elon Musk’s cash-for-verification plan, people who have already been verified on the platform would have to pay to keep their verification badge. As expected, numerous verified high-profile accounts are already threatening to leave Twitter if Elon Musk goes on with his plan.
However, you should probably take this one with a pinch of salt. People also threatened to leave the platform if Elon Musk bought Twitter. Nonetheless, people could really see through their threats.
Genius or a Mistake?
Twitter was sailing smoothly without much public scrutiny until Elon Musk became Twitter’s new owner. Now, disruptive new changes are popping up in typical Elon Musk fashion. A lot of people argue that his latest moves will have problematic fallouts.
However, he’s still the same man that put rockets in space and has ambitious plans to colonize Mars. So, could managing Twitter be harder than rocket science? Could Musk be overestimating the ingenuity of his plans? Only time will tell.
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