Twitter will determine verification status by your offline behavior, too

Back in 2007 our use of social media was still in a relative infancy. So it would come as a shock when someone would lose their job by posting something on Facebook that violated employee conduct at their place of work. For those kids out there, you have to remember, this was before sites like Gawker made a bloodsport out of destroying people's careers. Before then the only person who could destroy your rep online was you.

Now it's late 2017 and people are keeping their mouths shut, or creating anonymous accounts to speak their minds. But if you're verified on Twitter, God help you if you don't tow the line because you're now in danger of losing your blue checkmark, that little badge of verification Twitter swears isn't a sign of endorsement. We're talking about the blue badge next to a celebrity's name or organization like Adland. Such was our obsession with the thing Twitter claims wasn't all that important that reams of articles were written about how to obtain it just a few years ago. Note too how that articles carried a certain sense of mild smugness when one got that coveted badge.

Now the announcement that Twitter has closed its exclusive club and not allowing anyone else in (but it's totes not exclusive, guys) is only causing more infuriation among its user base that have been given new tools for years except the one they desperately want which is an edit button.

Back in 2013, the language made it sound more like their idea of what it means to be verified wasdifferent. Note this sentence from 2013 negates Twitter's 2017 way of thinking (emphasis mine): "Verification is currently used to establish authenticity of identities on Twitter. The verified badge helps users discover high-quality sources of information and trust that a legitimate source is authoring the account’s Tweets."

High-quality sources as determined by whom? That's right: Twitter. So blue check marks aren't a sign of endorsement, they're just a way of verifying stuff Twitter endorses. It may seem trivial but it's not.Like all social media, the algorithm is designed to influence your thinking. The blue checkmarks are constantly served up first in my "who to follow," section. Seeing as how I've had my account since 2009, you'd think I'd know who to follow by now. But in this case, it's not who I want to follow but who Twitter wants me to follow. And if they are serving up one set of people or organizations, it's at the expense of others.This is a problem. Because as we've discovered, those algorithms are easily manipulated by other people.

Former Facebook employees admitted suppressing conservative viewpoints. As The Washington Post commented on the same revelation: "...the issue at the heart of the question over what Facebook is suppressing or promoting. This is a media company at a scale that's without precedent in the world. Nearly three-quarters of American adults who use the Internet use Facebook. And those adults didn't see stories about political topics in their trending news feeds because a human who works at Facebook decided not to show it."

Twitter is no different than Facebook in the way it operates and the way in which it controls what we see. It's also not without bias; this is the same company whose contract employee deactivated President Trump's account. The act is stupid and childish and may have gained some temporary points in certain circles but if a contract employee has the power to delete the leader of the free world's verified account, what can the company as a whole do from the top down?

It appears that question has already been answered. According to The Verge Twitter will now judge verified users' offline behavior, too.

The gist is this: if a user breaks Twitter’s rules on Twitter — that is to say, by tweeting — that user will still be disciplined in all the usual ways, a spokesperson said. What’s new is that Twitter now plans to do at least some monitoring of verified users’ offline behavior as well, to determine whether it is consistent with its rules. If it isn’t, users can lose their badges. And so a hypothetical verified user who tweeted nothing but pictures of kittens but organized Nazi rallies for a living could now retain his tweeting privileges, but lose his verification badge.

Putting aside the inane hypothetical analogy for a moment, it doesn't take a genius to realize Twitter's decree goes way beyond Orwellian. To use our service, you must conduct yourself correctly while on it and also off it in the real world. How will Twitter monitor a verified persons' offline behavior? Or all of the nearly three-hundred thousand verified users? (This number might be higher, I'm just going off of the number of people the account Twitter Verified is following.)

Before you consider the possibility that Twitter is a powerful enough company to monitor the social media feeds and offline behavior of that many people, you can at least take heart that Twitter is already in violation of its Terms of Service. Just look at Kim DotCom still have a checkmark for his offline behavior?

Or what about Graphic Violence And Adult Content? James Deen who has rape allegations against him is still verified. Same with Kevin Spacey. Same with Brett Ratner. Same with Harvey Freaking Weinstein.

Will they start monitoring everyone's behavior now or do they go back a few years? For instance, Alec Baldwin called his daughter a rude, thoughtless little pig back in 2007. Clearly a violation of Twitter's abusive behavior guidelines. Yet Alec is still verified. Is there a statute of limitations for Twitter monitoring people offline?

Twitter is nothing if not hypocritical as much as it is devious.

about the author

kidsleepy CD copywriter with 18 years experience who has worked in many cities including New York, Atlanta, Montreal and currently Los Angeles. I snark because I care.

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