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Twitter Ticks and the Implications for Child Online Safety

3 minute read
By Smoothwall

There’s been widespread publicity surrounding the removal of ‘legacy’ verification ticks from Twitter accounts. It brings with it implications for student online safety – so here’s a round up of the latest developments.

Twitter verification ticks – what are they?

Twitter verification ticks appear alongside a user’s Twitter handle. They are often used by celebrities, businesses and organisations to show that they are authentic – that they are who they say they are.

Last November, Twitter updated their verification tick process and replaced it with the Twitter Blue monthly subscription service. This involves paying a fee in order to retain or obtain a verification tick on an account. Critics argue it’s now too easy for any account to gain a tick, as the verification checks have been toned down. Some have questioned the value in having a tick full stop – given how easily they can be obtained.

What’s happened due to recent developments?

In April, Twitter began removing verification ticks from accounts that hadn’t signed up to the Twitter Blue subscription service. Over the past few days there have been numerous U-turns by Twitter, with some accounts being given back a tick without subscribing to the service, causing confusion amongst users.

Implications for student online safety

Proponents of online safety have voiced concerns regarding Twitter’s latest approach to verification. Many fear that making it easier to mimic accounts, greatly increases the potential for misinformation. For example, a user may trust an account given its verified status, when in reality it’s held by an impersonator who seeks to spread harmful or fake content. In turn this can lead to confusion, fear and the further spread of misinformation.

It can also lead to the impersonation of other accounts. For example, if two accounts have a very similar name with a verification tick, it may be difficult to tell which one is credible. To illustrate, the BBC reported that an account called @DisneyJuniorUK was tweeting vile content, but managed to be verified with a gold tick before being suspended. The owner alerted his followers by saying “this isn’t actually real right. someone pinch me or something.” The account has since been suspended. Impersonators may also cause harm by contacting users under the guise of being somebody completely different, potentially placing children or vulnerable groups at risk.

It’s important that your school community is aware of the latest developments so that together we help students to use social media in a safer and more considered way.

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