Twitter’s “Verified” ruling class is starting to get features the rest of us can’t see: Peter Nowak

Twitter’s descent into class-ism wouldn’t be so concerning if its criteria for elite membership were clearer


Twitter icon on a smartphone screen

There’s a lot of talk about net neutrality of late, but what about Twitter neutrality? The social messaging service is continuing its march toward a two-tiered tweet system with new features for verified users – those people with the little blue checkmarks next to their profiles.

As outlined in a blog post this week, Twitter will now send notifications to verified users whenever another VIP follows them. They’ll also have access to a separate timeline featuring only fellow verified users. In other words, they’ll be able to talk amongst themselves without having to be disturbed by the rabble.

Twitter’s descent into class-ism wouldn’t be so concerning if the method by which it picks and chooses verified users wasn’t so opaque. The little blue checkmark is supposed “to establish authenticity of identities of key individuals and brands,” and is reserved for “highly sought users in music, acting, fashion, government, politics, religion, journalism, media, sports, business, and other key interest areas.”

Yet there’s little rhyme or reason as to how users are picked, with follower counts seemingly not a factor. For example: Steve Paikin, host of TVO’s The Agenda, has no verification despite having more than 54,000 followers, while junior reporters for newspapers with just a few hundred followers are. Requests from members of the general public for the checkmark are also ignored.

It makes sense that Twitter wants to make its service easier to use for those subscribers who attract large audiences, and it’s conceivable that a tiered system will ultimately be good for everyone. But if the company wants to keep its lower-class citizens from getting offended – and if it wants to prevent opportunities for competing services to capitalize on – it’s going to need to be a little clearer about how it picks and chooses its elites. Or it should at least create a proper framework where users can formally apply to be considered.

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