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Twitter to revive controversial account verification system

San Francisco

TWITTER Inc will bring back its system for verifying user identities next year, and is asking people to provide feedback on what the requirements should be for the coveted blue check mark.

The San Francisco-based company will start letting people request verification in early 2021. It published a draft document on Tuesday outlining a preliminary set of requirements. Accounts must be active, notable and "associated with a prominently recognised individual or brand". Twitter also highlighted six types of accounts that will qualify, but suggested others may come later: Government; Companies, Brands and Non-Profit Organisations; News; Entertainment; Sports; Activists, Organisers, and Other Influential Individuals.

Twitter said users can give the company feedback on the criteria for two weeks, then it plans to publish a final policy on Dec 17.

Twitter has used a blue check mark to verify the identity of well-known and popular Twitter users for years - a way to distinguish real users and corporate accounts from potential impersonators.

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But the verification programme has been confusing, and the company has offered little clarity around the criteria. It previously allowed users to request verification, but halted the programme in 2017, with chief executive officer Jack Dorsey calling the process "broken".

"We haven't been clear about who can become verified and when, why an account might be unverified, or what it means to be verified," Twitter wrote in a blog post on Tuesday.

As part of the revamped verification process, Twitter said it may remove verification if a user's account is dormant, or if it repeatedly breaks the company's rules.

Twitter recently confirmed that it will soon stop the special treatment US President Donald Trump receives for his personal Twitter account. While he often violates Twitter's rules, his tweets are considered newsworthy and thus he does not receive the same punishment other users might. This will end when he leaves office in January.

The verification process on Twitter has posed problems for the company in the past. Twitter, unlike Facebook Inc, does not require people to use their real identity on the service, so verification badges are an important tool for ensuring people can quickly tell if they are hearing from a real politician or corporate leader, for example.

But verification was also exclusive, and just a small group of Twitter's overall user base is verified. Over time the blue check mark came to represent a kind of implicit endorsement from the company. BLOOMBERG

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