Twitter recently relaunched its application and a new policy around verification. As people on Twitter navigate this new process of applying for verification, there have been a lot of questions – from criteria for verification, to the process and why accounts have been denied verification.
Today, Twitter hosted a Space to pose some of these most frequently asked questions the team has seen in Tweets, emails and in the media, directly to the experts who are responsible for building the product and writing the policy. In a Space hosted by the Twitter Communications team, B Byrne (@iamb) and Ryan Collado (@rycollad2), who are responsible for the product, were joined by Sarah Husain (@SarahHusain16), who helped write the policy.
Here’s a quick recap of the questions and some of the answers:
Why does the application not show up for some people on the app despite it having launched over a month ago?
Ryan Collado: At Twitter we generally roll out new features incrementally, which allows us to get feedback, fixing issues as we go along. And ultimately optimise the experience before we roll out to everyone. Verification is no different. As of today, we’ve rolled out the application to roughly 50% of customers since launch, we’ve captured a tonne of feedback along the way and we’re currently in the process of addressing several known issues, a lot of which we’ll be talking about today, before resuming rollout.
We appreciate your patience, and are continuing to work through some of the known issues taking your feedback into account. Everyone should have access to the application in the very near future.
What about journalists from smaller publications that report on local issues. In markets across Asia Pacific, journalists report in multiple languages. What if the publications don’t meet international standards that are laid out in the policy. Can these reporters qualify?
B Byrne: There’s two issues worth talking about here. The first is that a lot of journalists have been getting rejected in their verification applications because of technical issues or small problems with their application, not because they’re not notable. In particular, in the policy we do require that journalists link to the publication in their bio. A lot of journalists don’t have the link in their bio and that results in rejection.
But the second point of your question is, we do require the journalists to be writing for organisations that are verified on Twitter, so it is important to make sure that the publisher or outlet gets verified before the journalists themselves. Of course, if they’re writing as a freelance writer, they can be sharing links from multiple different sources that they’re writing for, but if the outlet itself isn’t notable then we don’t consider the journalists’ writing port notable.
That said, our policy today is just a start. We know that we’re not capturing everybody in our first attempt, so we are going to be learning and expanding as we go. So this is definitely not the final word.
We see that some senior journalists, with all the criteria of being notable, have been rejected. Would you mind sharing with us what happened, or maybe some tips on how they can make sure that they can be verified.
Ryan Collado: The most common reason for a journalist’s application to be denied is just a failure to meet some of the prerequisites for verification. There are two things that need to be in order before a journalist even fills out the application. One, they must be employed by a verified news organisation. And two, they must reference that news organisation and its official website on their profile.
Another common mistake we’ve seen is providing an email address that cannot be used to link the applicant’s account to the notability evidence that they provided. So for example, you may have provided a link to your author page on the official website of a verified news organisation, which is great. But if you have provided your personal email address as the authenticity evidence, and it’s not referenced on your author page, your request will be denied because ultimately we won’t be able to reliably link your account to the notability evidence.
That said, we know that this is far from a perfect process. And we are working to optimise that experience to better position our customers for success, as well as providing more context along the way so it’s very clear what information is needed, why, and in what format. So, again, plenty of other improvements that we’ll be delivering in the very near future, but hopefully that helps answer some of the questions around the journalists use cases.
Can you please elaborate upon the eligibility criteria ‘follower count in the top .05% of active accounts located in the same geographic region’? for certain categories such as companies and organisations. There has been criticism that some organisations may not have such information readily available. Can you please clarify the criteria and what it means for the applicant?
Sarah Husain: Our verification policy focuses on accounts that are active, authentic and notable. Follower count is just one part of the equation we factor in under the “notable” criteria. It is never the reason for someone to be verified but just one of the ways.
Where we include that as an option is for brand/company/organisational accounts and also activists organizers and influential individuals and digital content creators, or those that wish to be verified outside of the professional categories defined in our policy.
As we gain a better understanding of what accounts are applying and also ramp up our approval process, we may alter these thresholds to be more representative of notable accounts on Twitter.
Does Twitter have translators working on the team? How robust is the vetting process when a reporter can only provide examples of their work in another language — for example in Burmese, Telugu or Tagalog?
B Byrne: The people who review applications are undergoing rigorous training to ensure that we only verify eligible people, per our policy. Although we are still working on getting more support for non-English speaking countries to help make this process faster, our team includes those who speak languages from Southeast Asia/Asia Pacific countries.
Having a fair, equitable verification process is a priority and we strive to be consistent in how we’re assessing verification applications based on our policy criteria. To better understand if our verification application process is fair and unbiased, we have just introduced a voluntary demographic survey.
What does Twitter say to those folks who claim they’ve purchased verification through external agents?
B Byrne: Let me be very clear – “Selling or purchasing verification is against our policy. We do not authorise any external agents or individuals to sell verification on Twitter. We encourage people to directly apply through the verification application process available on the Twitter app.”
As we continue learning and getting feedback from our users, we’ll continue our efforts in making sure that the only way for people to get verified is through the proper-official channels. If you see someone claiming they have purchased verification, please report it to us.
Twitter talks about transparency in everything, so what about telling an applicant why their account was rejected for verification?
Ryan Collado: We are working on this. In fact, we are starting to include more information in our email communication to the account holder about why a certain request was denied. We are also looking to optimise application access, and are thinking about how to provide more information in the process flow in the app, but are starting with email.
How does an individual get verified if the name on the proof of ID is different from the name on the account? So in the case of radio personalities, the name on her ID is her official name, whereas she hosts radio shows under a pseudonym, which is very common in India.
Sarah Husain: Many people using different names are verified, and often have pseudonyms online. However, if you provide an official email address and an official website which states your pseudonym, you can get verified without any issues.
If someone’s organization does not have a URL/domain for email and they have been using gmail and hotmail, such as government agencies, can their accounts be verified?
Sarah Husain: This is a tough situation that I’m glad we can address. Taking a step back, one main focus of our policy and process is for people to trust the authenticity of the accounts people find on Twitter. In order to verify an organization’s, we need to make sure the account is actually representing that organization and is owned by someone at that organization. We need to cross reference that information somewhere and we landed on an official website that lists the account or official email verification. We completely understand that for anonymity or safety reasons, those authenticity methods aren’t always possibilities. We are working on a way to solve this problem as we hear from folks and learn more but in the interim, we have to err on the side of verifying accounts we can prove the authenticity of. Doesn’t mean your account won’t be verifiable in the future, just means we ask for your patience while we figure out a way forward that doesn’t impact the trust of verified accounts.
Twitter paused taking new applications recently. After a two year delay, and a grand launch, why was the team not prepared internally to handle a high volume, and what are you doing to scale this ability?
B Byrne: It’s not that we weren’t prepared to handle the volume. We knew when we launched that it would take us some time to roll the application out for everyone, so the pauses so far have matched our expectations. It’s impossible to know how the community will use something before we get it into their hands, so we knew we had to start giving people access and then learn from how they used it as well as some of the challenges they face, which is what you’re seeing right now. We appreciate everyone’s patience but we think this is the best way for us to build the right product experience for everyone on Twitter.