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This article is written by Priyanshi Soni, from Symbiosis Law School, Noida. This article seeks to explain rules laid down by Twitter to get a verified badge on Twitter accounts and also discusses the Cormac McCarthy case regarding a parody account. 

Introduction

Twitter is one of the most widely used social media platforms, founded in 2006 in California, United States. It has 330 million active users monthly and while the registered users can post, retweet, like and comment, the unregistered users can only view. Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, Biz Stone, Noah Glass were its founders. 

There exist many fake accounts on social media and most of these accounts are bot accounts that are often created en masse by software programs. Bots have been used for years to artificially amplify certain posts or topics so they are seen by more people. In recent years, social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have developed such software through which bots automatically get blocked. But when such fake accounts are created by humans, it poses a greater problem. They are hard to catch as they can get verified using any illegal means. 

Rules for a verified badge on Twitter

What it means to be verified on Twitter 

The blue badge (verified accounts) helps the general public to distinguish and identify the authentic accounts of the people who are of high public interest. It helps people know with whom they are having conversations and interactions, which leads to healthier conversations. Twitter allows certain categories of users to be verified on the portal. 

After a three-year pause, Twitter has recently reopened its verification application process to the public, allowing people to create accounts on Twitter and display the ‘blue tick’. Twitter has also asserted that it will start removing the blue ticks if the account does not meet the updated criteria. Twitter has also released a basic set of guidelines for how verified profiles should conduct themselves, as well as changes to the regulations that govern verified accounts.

To receive a verified badge on Twitter, the account must be authentic, notable, and active:

Authentic 

The account must be authentic to maintain trust between users. There are 3 methods of verifying identity –

  • Official website – by providing a link to your or your organization’s official website and Twitter account. 
  • ID verification – by providing an official government-issued identity card eg. Aadhar Card, Driving Licence, etc. 
  • Official email address – by providing your official email address and the domain name should be the one related to the category you are choosing to apply for. 

Notable 

As per these criteria, the account should be associated with some recognized organization or people. In addition to confirming the identity of the controller of the account, Twitter will verify the following types of accounts based on the criteria described. Twitter may independently validate qualifying affiliation in all areas through partnerships or direct outreach: 

Government 

This includes the accounts of important government officials and organizations like elected ministers, institutions, ambassadors, spokespersons, etc., and official candidates for the state- or national-level public office. Also, there must be a reference to such accounts on official government websites or news media. 

Companies, brands, and organizations 

This includes the accounts of brands, companies, their owners, non-profit organizations, and other mainstream executives. Accounts must achieve two of the following characteristics to be considered prominent: 

  • Presence in public indices such as public stock exchanges, steady Wikipedia pages that meet the encyclopedia’s notability standards, and databases such as GlobalGiving
  • 3 or more featured references in verified news outlets that match the news requirements within the 6 months before applying; 
  • The follower count should be in the top 0.05% of active accounts located in the same area.       

News organizations and journalists 

The official accounts of news organizations and even the individual accounts of journalists can be verified with a badge if their account is public, their account’s bio refers to their organization’s name and link to its official website, and also otherwise meets the criteria laid out in this policy. Qualifying organizations including newspapers; magazines; broadcast, cable, satellite, and streaming TV and radio news networks, etc. must adhere to recognized professional standards for journalism. Also, freelance journalists may be verified if they can provide at least three bylines/credits in verified media published in the six months preceding their application.  

Entertainment 

Accounts of film and TV-related organizations such as film studios, TV networks, etc. may be verified provided these things are fulfilled – 

  • There is a connection of the account with a verified organization as shown in the profile, and
  • The website associated with the production or entity includes a link to the profile.

Similarly, accounts of artists, performers, directors, and others in similar public-facing roles can also be verified after meeting certain criteria – 

  • The website associated with a verified entity, or similar official public source, includes a link to the profile;
  • Their IMDB profile has at least 50 production credits;
  • Have at least 3 featured references within 6 months before applying in news outlets. 

Sports and Gaming

Accounts of professional sports players, teams, coaches, etc. can also be verified, provided they provide a link to the official website and must be listed on the official website. Athletes participating in global competitions such as the Olympics and Paralympics can also get their accounts verified. Amateur athletes who compete at the collegiate level or in official minor leagues cannot be verified except if they meet the criteria for influential individuals verification. 

Activists, organizers, and other influential individuals 

Apart from the professionals discussed above, other people who are trying to spread awareness, influence people for the right cause, bring socio-economic or cultural changes, etc., can also be verified. 

Twitter has also rolled out that it will verify users even if they are not following in any of the above categories if they are in the high public interest and are playing important public roles keeping in mind the present times. These include medical professionals during pandemics or epidemics, political leaders, campaigners for human rights, etc. 

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Active 

The accounts to get verified must be active on Twitter but it should be in adherence to Twitter rules, i.e., – 

  1. You must have a complete profile with a name and picture
  2. The account must have a confirmed phone number or email for security purposes
  3. You have logged into your account at least once in the past 6 months and, 
  4. The account must have not faced lockouts for violating Twitter terms in the past 6 months excluding appeals. When your account is locked, you will not be able to sign in – even with the correct password. 

Ineligible accounts 

Certain accounts on Twitter cannot be given verified badges irrespective of them fulfilling the above criteria. These are –

  1. Parody accounts, unofficial fan pages, newsletter, or commentary accounts.
  2. Pets and fictional characters, unless directly affiliated with a Verified Company, Brand, or Organization, or with a verified entertainment production, as described above. 
  3. Accounts associated with spam activities such as buying and selling of followers and accounts involved in hateful content. 

Losing the verified status on Twitter

As per the Twitter Terms of Service, twitter can remove the verified badge at any time without giving notice. This will happen in two conditions –

  1. If the account’s username is changed, if the account becomes inactive or incomplete or if you are no longer holding the position for which the account was verified, and you do not meet the criteria for verification otherwise anymore. 
  2. Twitter can also remove the verification if the account acts in a way that is misleading people intentionally by changing name or bio, or if the account gets suspended, or hateful content, abusive behaviour, etc. is displayed. 

Removal of the badge based on repeated violations will be assessed on a case-by-case basis and is not automatic. Twitter mentions that it reserves the right to revoke the verification if it comes to know that such verification was obtained artificially or via illegal activity. 

The Cormac McCarthy case

Cormac Mccarthy is one of the greatest contemporary American writers and he has written ten novels, two plays, two screenplays, and two short-short stories. His works comprised violence, a unique writing style, and lack of punctuation and attribution. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel “The Road” in 2007, and his 2005 novel “No Country for Old Men” was made into a film in 2007 of the same name, which won four Academy Awards, including best picture. 

Recently, Twitter announced that the Twitter account of Cormac Mccarthy was verified by mistake and that now the blue badge has been removed. The spokesperson also said that “The account will also be required to adhere to Twitter’s parody, newsfeed, commentary, and fan account policy”, i.e., the account being a parody account, it has to follow the rules to stay on Twitter. The scout had 48,000 followers and even a few celebrities like Stephen King and Patton Oswalt followed him. This account was made by Daniel Watts, who is a California lawyer who is running for Governor in the state. Watts also said that he never interacted with Twitter regarding verification and that Twitter itself gave the blue-tick to the parody account. This account was particularly made in 2018, but another parody account existed in 2012 in his name. 

McCarthy rarely speaks to the press and has no known presence on social media, and some of the tweets on this parody account highlighted how unfamiliar he is with the technology. 

Conclusion

There exist many fake accounts of big celebrities on various social networking sites. Apart from approved fan pages, these accounts also violate many rights of the celebrities as not everyone likes such fake accounts to exist in their name. It is also the responsibility of social media sites to keep a check on such accounts, and as seen in the Cormac case, the sites should at least be vigilant to whom they are awarding the verified mark. 

References


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