The rejection of the Twitter verification leaves me and other reporters totally confused.
Twitter’s verification process and the coveted blue check mark have been around for almost a decade and are often used to determine whether an account is worth following or not. After coming under scrutiny while several accounts violating the rules of engagement were still under verification, the program was suspended indefinitely in November 2017,
After three and a half years however, Twitter finally opened up its revamped verification process to select members of the public (including me) in May of this year, with any user eligible to apply “within the next few weeks.”
Under the new procedures, Twitter says all requests are handled by humans, not automated, in an attempt to reduce errors in requests.
The blue check mark next to its name means different things to different people. In the case of businesses and government accounts, this gives users confidence that they are talking to the right people. In the camp of bloggers and influencers, this is a sign that they have reached critical mass and is often a good indicator of their weight and market value.
Like many other blogger-journalists, I have two Twitter accounts: @PTBMade who is on behalf of my travel blog Points to do; and @TimLaiOfficiel which is in my name personally. I had debated whether to use the word “official” in the handle as I will be the first to admit that I am hardly worthy of such an enlarged handle, but having so many other namesakes around the world. , including the title of a Vietnamese rock song, my choice of suffixes was remarkably limited.
The guidelines for journalists are pretty clear, but I’m ashamed to admit I succumbed to digital pressure and my already fragile ego was duly deflated when I received the notification that Twitter had refused my verification.
But you don’t have a lot of followers!
That is true. I’m definitely orders of magnitude behind familiar names, and the thought of having several thousand people following me really scares me. Yet here I have a fanboy moment upon finding out that the President of Estonia tweeted one of my posts.
Yet I have personally seen audited accounts with single digit subscribers and zero posts, usually being affiliates of companies expanding their horizons. Similar articles have attempted to fish out low-subscriber verified accounts in the past.
In Twitter’s own words, the verification is only proof of identity in the category you claim to belong to and in the case of journalists, it claims to ignore subscriber counts altogether. This was confirmed at a Twitter Spaces event earlier this month.
It should also be noted for others looking for verification the rather simplistic statement that if you write for verified media, that is enough to be classified as “Notable” for the purposes of the application, and likewise if the media is not checked, neither will it.
Are Forbes contributors really journalists?
Good question, yes and no – we are a diverse group. Granted, I’m on the fringes of what mainstream journalism would entail, although Twitter does offer two clues to what they consider to be journalists:
“1) News organizations and journalists: All official accounts of eligible news agencies, as well as the individual accounts of journalists employed by verified news agencies, may be verified, if:
- … individual journalist accounts must provide a link to their affiliated news organization website that references their work, i.e. an about page or a biography, * and
… Eligible organizations include newspapers; magazines; … digital news publishers; … and must adhere to recognized professional standards for journalism such as those set forth by … International Federation of Journalists
2) Freelance or freelance journalists may be Verified if they can provide at least 3 bylines / credits in Verified publications published within 6 months of their application. “
The veracity of my claim to journalism was tested when four years ago I applied to join the National Union of Journalists and the aforementioned International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). To my own surprise, I was accepted, and now, as a full paying member, I respect their Code of conduct in everything I write.
As someone who (until the onset of the pandemic) frequently requests photographic credentials at airports, airplanes and other high security areas around the world, my press card application was approved at rightly. As Twitter declared the IFJ as one of their criteria, I felt like it was going to be simple.
Providing three signatures should have been easy and the in-app request form actually gives the option to add more. I think I got about seven. My Forbes feed has several posts written in the past six months, so this was to add some from January and more to my blog, which itself is part of the BoardingArea network ( also checked on Twitter).
To be honest, after reading the guidelines a few times and being a Forbes contributor, I thought I would have a strong claim. The main Forbes account and Forbes Europe have almost 17 million followers combined.
Even if it wasn’t. I see many other verified Forbes contributors, so I’m not sure why my request was rejected, especially since my notification came after Twitter itself promised to give more detailed comments on the rejections.
The email that was sent to me was totally unnecessary and indescribable.
My only suspicion is the lack of followers, but as previously stated, that didn’t seem to stop others from responding to their requests.
After that ?
Thirty days must pass until I can reapply, although having provided the best possible evidence at this point, it seems like a tall order for them to be swayed.
I’m not alone in my confusion though. There are countless other journalists, probably with stronger claims than me, both independent and internal, who are rejected. Although given the lack of transparency on how these are decided, it still looks like a lottery. Well done if you get that blue check mark!