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Twitter may eventually let anyone become verified

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Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said in a Periscope livestream today that the company is working to allow any user to become verified.

“The intention is to open verification to everyone,” Dorsey says. “And to do it in a way that’s scalable, where [Twitter] is not in the way and people can verify more facts about themselves and we don’t have to be the judge or imply any bias on our part.”

Dorsey didn’t elaborate further on what this process looks like, but other online communities, such as Airbnb, require users to submit a Facebook profile, phone number, email address, or a government-issued photo ID.

When Twitter first added the blue checkmark to indicate verified profiles, it was originally given out to large public figures, such as celebrities. Eventually, the company began verifying other high-profile figures, including journalists, which made the checkmark perceived as a status symbol on the platform. In 2016, Twitter allowed anyone to request verification, but asked users to provide reasons why they want one. Unless they were established writers, creators, or influencers, the average user was often denied a blue checkmark.

“The main problem is, we use [the checkmark] to mean identity,” Twitter director of product David Gasca says. “But in user research ... users think of it as credibility, [that] Twitter stands behind this person and what they’re saying is great and authentic, which is not what we meant.” The idea is that if everyone is verified, the company can change the meaning of the checkmark and get users to perceive accounts without verification as suspicious.

Dorsey also adds that identity, as well as anonymity, is an important part of Twitter. He insists that Twitter doesn’t enforce a real name policy because he wants the platform to be a safe space for someone to speak their mind without sharing identifiable information that would “put them in the way of harm.” He also adds that the team is working on better highlighting accounts that are parodies, in order to prevent tweets from these accounts from being misconstrued as facts. (The Twitter account @dprk_news, for example, is often mistaken as a real North Korean news source.)

Today’s unannounced Periscope livestream is part of Twitter’s followup to its new initiative to openly discuss the “health” of the company. Dorsey was joined by a team of executives who wanted to provide a transparent and open space to discuss the platform’s ongoing battle against its rampant issues, including the spread of misinformation, bots, and abusive or illegal content. Though he says he hopes to hold these informal roundtables more often, Dorsey did not specify when the next stream would be.

“We have a lot of work ahead, it’s not going to be overnight. We’re going to be as open as we can,” he says. “That’s going to be uncomfortable for us in many ways, but we want to be very open and very vulnerable with you all about what we’re facing and what our challenges are.”