It seems like Twitter's oft-troubled verification application process is struggling yet again, with the platform pausing the current expansion of access to its new and improved verification tool in order to refine the systems that it now has in place.
We’ve temporarily hit pause on rolling out access to apply for Verification so we can make improvements to the application and review process.— Twitter Verified (@verified) August 13, 2021
For those who have been waiting, we know this may be disappointing. We want to get things right, and appreciate your patience.
Twitter Product Lead Kayvon Beykpour later provided a clarification as to what this actually means, noting that anyone who currently has access to the application process will not lose it, nor will applications be paused, as such.
to clarify, we haven't paused applications. we've been gradually rolling out *access to* the application (it's not at 100% yet) and that roll-out is paused until we can better handle the scale. for those it's been rolled out to, we're still accepting and processing applications.— Kayvon Beykpour (@kayvz) August 14, 2021
So it's not the same as the total pause that Twitter put on verification applications back in May - a week after re-opening them, following a four-year halt. But it's indicative of another spanner in the works for Twitter's internal assessment and approval systems, which have been consistently problematic, and have left many confused as to what Twitter's blue tick actually means, and whether it carries the weight that some appear to place upon it.
As noted, Twitter initially paused public requests for profile verification back in 2017 after questions were raised as to how a prominent white supremacist, among other questionable identities, had been granted Twitter's prestigious checkmark. That forced Twitter to reassess its entire process, which it admitted at the time had been confused, both internally and externally, as to what the profile badge actually meant.
Verification was meant to authenticate identity & voice but it is interpreted as an endorsement or an indicator of importance. We recognize that we have created this confusion and need to resolve it. We have paused all general verifications while we work and will report back soon— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) November 9, 2017
Twitter did continue to verify selected people after that time, but public requests were shuttered, as Twitter worked to fix its broken system.
In November last year, Twitter announced that it would be re-launching public verification applications in 2021, which gave hope to the many web celebrities seeking to underline their status and importance. Twitter also announced its tougher, more specific verification guidelines, which sought the clarify the meaning of the identifier. And while these new regulations are a positive step, they haven't enabled Twitter to clarify past mistakes - so anyone who's been mistakenly verified, or wouldn't actually meet these new requirements, still gets to keep their blue tick.
Which means that a level of confusion still remains - but no matter, working with what it can, Twitter has updated the process, solidified its systems, and it finally re-opened public verification requests, after four years, in May.
Then it shut them down a week later.
We’re rolling in verification requests. So we gotta hit pause on accepting any more for now while we review the ones that have been submitted.— Twitter Verified (@verified) May 28, 2021
We’ll reopen requests soon! (we pinky swear)
To its credit, that pause only lasted three days, and was largely overblown by media outlets keen to highlight Twitter's questionable record on such.
But then again, Twitter's record here is questionable, and has remained problematic.
Back in July, web researcher Conspirador Norteño identified a range of bot accounts, each created less than a month prior, that had been approved for Twitter verification, somehow making their way through the platform's more rigorous, updated assessment process.
Twitter acknowledged the error, and deleted the accounts. But the case also provided some additional insight into how such a mistake could have occurred, and how Twitter's new system could still erroneously approve the wrong profiles.
The problem, it seems, is that Twitter's verification process is now largely automated, with humans only intervening in the final stages. That means that if spammers can work out what the system is looking for, they can likely push through false accounts and gain approval, without those profiles meeting the new requirements.
You would hope that Twitter would have updated its systems as a result - and maybe that's what this latest pause is for. But still, the platform's history of verifying the right accounts, by whatever criteria you choose, is not great.
Can we be sure that Twitter is now getting it right?
And, really, does it actually even matter in the end?
Sure, having the blue checkmark does provide an extra level of endorsement, and authority in some respects, and that brings with it a level of trust in what that account is sharing. If you see public health advice from an account with a blue checkmark, for example, you're more likely to trust that such info is correct - and in this sense, the badge does matter and is valuable within the Twitter experience.
But given the various changes in approach, there are a lot of accounts on Twitter that shouldn't have the blue tick, and a lot of individuals, in particular, who you probably shouldn't listen to either way.
So does it really make a difference if your account is verified or not?
In terms of functional benefits, verified accounts do get access to specific alerts relating to other verified profiles, to help them maximize engagement with other prominent users. But outside of that, there's no significant difference in how you use the platform.
In terms of tweet reach, it stands to reason that verified accounts would see some boost in awareness, with Twitter likely highlighting such tweets more specifically in topic listings, and other recommendations. But Twitter doesn't outline this specifically, only noting that:
"The blue badge is one of the ways we help people distinguish the authenticity of accounts that are of high public interest. It gives people on Twitter more context about who they’re having conversations with so they can determine if it’s trustworthy, which our research has shown leads to healthier, more informed conversations."
I mean, healthier, more informed conversation, you would think, is the way that Twitter wants to go, so it would then logically follow that it would look to highlight tweets from verified accounts more often. But how significant the actual benefit might be is hard to say.
So again, does verification really make much difference?
I mean, probably not. If you're using Twitter to connect with your audience, you'll be able to do so whether you're verified or not, and while it would give your profile an extra level of presence and trust, it probably, functionally, doesn't really change anything.
In other words, the impact of Twitter's oft-confusing verification process on your process is probably not significant, as, really, no one knows for sure what the checkmark really means anyway.
Good to have, for sure, but a significant element of your tweet strategy? Probably not.
And either way, if you're in a region where public requests haven't been rolled out yet, you can't apply anyway, and won't have the chance till Twitter re-assess its current process failings.