In a Periscope stream yesterday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey expressed an interest in offering up verification to all of its users, not just the ones it deems important. According to the Verge, Dorsey remarked, “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.”
Verification initially started to curb the rash of accounts impersonating celebrities that briefly dominated early Twitter. Soon, however, it was opened up to members of the media and creators, taking on a connotation that verified users could be trusted. In effect, verification signaled not just that a user was who they claimed to be, but also that what they said could be trusted, and that Twitter supported what they said. That’s why Twitter’s decision to verify white supremacists like Unite the Right rally organizer Jason Kessler has been contentious.
Opening verification has the potential to shift the way that users understand Twitter, and mitigate some of the problems on the platform. As fears of political propaganda and Russian sock puppets hang over the platform, verifying everyone — not just newsmakers and media members — could help resurrect the marker’s initial purpose: that this user is who they claim to be. By withholding verification under some arbitrary measure of “importance,” Twitter implied that verified users were important. That needs to go.
As we wrote nearly two years ago, when Twitter allowed any user to request a verified badge, “Haters are gonna hate, and harassers will harass, after all, but they tend to hate a lot less when their legal and Google-able name is attached to what they say. And by simply expanding an already in-use program, users who want to be anonymous will still be able to use the service — just without automatic direct access to everyone else.” Anonymity can still remain on Twitter, but by verifying more people, Twitter might be able to stop dubious accounts from driving activity on the social network.