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Legitimacy

I’ve written previously on this blog about why I feel that the option to ‘get verified’ should be available to all users on Twitter. I’ve also made it clear that I believe that, with some exceptions, anonymity on the internet needs to end.

On Tuesday, Bill Gates finally joined Twitter, and was almost immediately verified by @caroline. That’s fine and to be expected – like him or loathe him, Bill Gates is a big deal, and with parodies and impostors still common on Twitter (including Gates himself, who has made several illegitimate appearances) it makes sense to verify the very famous very quickly.

Twitter AnonymityCertainly, common or garden Twitter proles such as you and I shouldn’t expect this kind of first-class treatment from Biz Stone at al. But picking up from what I said previously, those of us who wish to be taken seriously on Twitter – and, indeed, the internet – should expect to (eventually) be provided with a way to confirm that our account is genuine. That, yes, we are a real person, we are who we say we are, and we’re prepared to be fully accountable for the things that we say.

It’s all about legitimacy.

It’s easier to verify a celebrity than it is a regular person. Celebrities have agents and managers, and lots of people who can vouch for them, including other celebrities. Regular people don’t have those luxuries, but that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve the same rights.

What I’d like to see on Twitter – and down the line, across the entire internet – is a way for each and every one of us to get verified. If you use Paypal, you’ll know that becoming verified on Paypal is an important part of the process. It helps to build trust within the Paypal community, and provides an element of safety to others when they are engaging in transactions with you. Paypal, as the middleman, provides that guarantee.

I want to see this on Twitter. It may have to be an entirely different system to the current verification process (which, let’s face it, was tailor-made for celebrities and brands), but there needs to be a way for me to ID myself with Twitter and get my account authorised.

One easy way to do this would be to implement verification as a step in Twitter’s widely-anticipated premium account business model. By paying for Twitter, you’re already making the decision that the network is important to you, and likely using it as a business tool yourself, so getting verified, and making yourself legitimate, is absolutely worth its weight.

Using Paypal’s example as a guide, Twitter could easily ID check your account by matching up your bank account or credit card with your profile. And once done, once you’ve been verified, you get the seal of approval, and the trust and safety it provides to others.

And it doesn’t matter if you share the same name with somebody else on Twitter, or a hundred different people. Twitter isn’t verifying your name – they’re verifying your identity. They’re saying to everybody who visits your profile and interacts with you that this is a real person, and more importantly, that they’re exactly who they say they are.

Anyone who wishes to remain anonymous or doesn’t feel that becoming verified is important to them would simply opt out of the process. None of this would be forced. It would simply be available as a facility for those that desired legitimacy. Of course, it would be impossible for bots and most spammers to get verified, and it’s unlikely that trolls, stalkers and good old-fashioned weirdos would take the risk, so while the option to remain unverified would always (and would have to) be available, you would do so knowing the consequences, inasmuch as who you are grouping yourself with.

Furthermore, if Twitter really wants to fashion itself as part of your online identity, accurate verification on Twitter could very easily lead to accurate verification everywhere else, too.

This is coming. If it isn’t started by Twitter, it’ll be started by Facebook. And once the push towards online legitimacy begins, it’ll be impossible to stop. And for this Twitterer, it cannot come fast enough.

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