By Niki Kelly
Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows how excited I was to get my blue check mark back in December 2021.
I had tried for years, but Twitter had a pretty stringent procedure. Even though I had thousands of followers, aired on a weekly television show and had been an honest and fair journalist for years, it was a no-go.
Eventually, though, after much effort, the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette got the coveted mark, as did I and a few other colleagues. When I left the JG in May, I lost my check mark but eventually recovered it along with the rest of our team at the Indiana Capital Chronicle.
It might seem lame and egotistical, but to me, the blue check mark was an important part of being able to do my job well.
People could follow me and know with some level of confidence that the information I was giving to them was credible and accurate because Twitter is where people are getting a lot of their news these days, according to Pew Research.
I’m not saying every person who has a blue check mark should automatically be trusted. They are human and can make mistakes. But it’s a starting point to know who the person is and what their experience and expertise is.
To me, the most important part of the check mark is to verify that the person or entity is real and authentic.
Recently, I had someone create an identical account to mine with one letter added in the name. It was barely noticeable. They used my picture, copied the same verbiage. I noticed dozens of sources and readers had followed it thinking it was me.
The only thing it was missing was a blue check mark, which is why several people sent it to me expressing concern. The imposter me was liking controversial posts that could have threatened my journalistic reputation.
I was able to get it shut down through Twitter, partly because of the blue check mark.
But under the new proposal, anyone could create a fake media account — say, the Indiana Capital Record — buy a check mark and spew false information.
“Twitter’s current lords & peasants system for who has or doesn’t have a blue checkmark is bullshit,” Elon Musk tweeted this week.
The problem is that it doesn’t acknowledge that lords and peasants can all use Twitter now. It is free and open to everyone. The check mark simply establishes someone’s identity.
Twitter’s guidelines say, “The blue Verified badge on Twitter lets people know that an account of public interest is authentic. To receive the blue badge, your account must be authentic, notable and active.”
And while I work in the world of journalism and politics, others on Twitter also need the blue check mark to ensure their brand or integrity isn’t damaged with a fake account. This includes sports stars, actors and other entertainers.
Ryan Reynolds, an editor in Evansville, nabbed the handle before the much more famous actor could. A more nefarious person could use the Twitter platform to besmirch Reynolds (the actor).
That’s why the blue check mark verification system started — after Twitter was sued by baseball manager Tony LaRussa for allowing an account to impersonate him.
If anyone can buy a blue check mark, it automatically devalues it. It wouldn’t have a purpose anymore (other than to make money) and certainly couldn’t be used to deter copycat accounts or encourage responsible posting. After all, Twitter can take away the blue check mark for spreading lies or hate speech — as with Louis Farrakhan in 2018.
I saw someone say that paying the $8 a month would equate to buying influence. But it wouldn’t even be that. Because if anyone can get it without going through a vetting or verification process, then the blue check is no longer influential or important.
So if Elon Musk does end up charging for the check mark, what do I do? I think I’ll be keeping my $8.
Niki Kelly is editor-in-chief of indianacapitalchronicle.com, where this commentary first appeared. She has covered Indiana politics and the Indiana Statehouse since 1999 for publications, including the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. Send comments to [email protected].