Twitter Uses Its Blue-Checkmark System for Good and Streamlines Verification for Covid-19 Experts

Illustration for article titled Twitter Uses Its Blue-Checkmark System for Good and Streamlines Verification for Covid-19 Experts
Photo: Matt Rourke (AP Images)

Twitter has announced that it’s ramping up the verification process for its infamously arcane blue-checkmark system and prioritizing qualified health professionals in the face of this ongoing pandemic.

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This week, Twitter Support put out a call for accounts that are “providing credible updates around #COVID19,” the potentially deadly respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus. The tweet also includes instructions on how accounts can best update their information to increase their likelihood of snagging a blue checkmark.

“[W]e are working with global public health authorities to identify experts and have already Verified hundreds of accounts...” the company tweeted Thursday.

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It’s the latest step in Twitter’s larger initiative to crack down on the kinds of viral hoaxes and potentially dangerous misinformation that have circulated on several social media platforms as the novel coronavirus outbreak’s intensified. Earlier this week, the company announced that it had broadened its definition of harmful content to cover anything “that goes directly against guidance from authoritative sources of global and local public health information.”

These new rules cover everything from unverified rumors to coronavirus conspiracy theories to bogus cures like drinking bleach that you would hope people aren’t dumb enough to believe. But then again, this is the internet we’re talking about—a place where teenagers munch on tide pods and dip their balls in soy sauce.

Since its inception, Twitter’s blue checkmark has evolved into a vanity symbol—a coveted and occasionally controversial metric of social status only exacerbated by the site’s notoriously convoluted approval system that’s verified literal neo-Nazis. However, this push to verify health experts harkens back to what the badge system was created for: to highlight authentic sources in your neverending Twitter feed.

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For health experts looking to become verified, Twitter said it’s prioritizing accounts with emails connected to “an authoritative organization or institution.” Additionally, the account’s bio should mention this institution, ideally with a link to an official page that also references back to the Twitter account (to help streamline Twitter’s process for confirming your identity). Further instructions are available here and here.

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All these tips are applicable to the average user looking for a blue checkmark, just so you know. However, since Twitter said that its verification process for authentic covid-19 resources has been bottlenecked by incorrectly formatted information, the company decided to congregate these guidelines in a public service announcement.

And none too soon, since Google’s recently released website for covid-19 resources (yes, that one) links to a carousel of Twitter accounts from health officials that tweet updated guidance regarding the outbreak.

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In Thursday’s tweet, Twitter also said the company’s investigating methods of taking public suggestions for potential accounts to verify. However, its first priority is tackling suggestions “from global public health authorities and partners.”

Gizmodo weekend editor. Freelance games reporter. Full-time disaster bi.

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DISCUSSION

They should honestly just verify anyone who wants to be verified. Charge a nominal sum if necessary, but good god let those of us actual people get verified so we can weed out the bots and trolls.