As an information gathering tool, journalists rely on the bird app for more than just keeping tabs on the discourse (Picture: Photo by Avishek Das/SOPA Images/Shutterstock)
If you hadn’t noticed, Twitter has been having a bit of a meltdown for the past few months.
Last week, Elon Musk finally decided to take away people’s prized, coveted and – in many cases – rightly earned blue verification checkmarks.
Now, the only accounts that sport the blue checkmark are those that have paid the £9.60 monthly subscription fee for Twitter Blue or been paid for by Musk himself.
The news did not come as a surprise. Making people pay for verification was on top of the billionaire’s public agenda when he bought the social media platform.
Like every journalist, I have feelings about this. As a young reporter at the beginning of my career, a Twitter check mark was right up there on my list of professional goals.
To me, getting verified on Twitter meant I had made it in this competitive and highly gatekept industry.
Last week, Elon Musk finally decided to take away people’s prized, coveted and – in many cases – rightly earned blue verification checkmarks (Picture Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
I only joined Twitter in 2016, but was never very active on it. However, in the past few years, even as a passive observer and quiet tweeter, the platform has given me so much.
As an information gathering tool, journalists rely on the bird app for more than just keeping tabs on the discourse. It was where we could find sources, jobs, ideas and community. It was our very own refrigerator to proudly stick our achievements.
As someone who graduated during the pandemic, Twitter was where I could observe, interact with and learn from other journalists. These interactions were precious as we never had the chance to do this in newsrooms, internships and work experience like others before us.
Moving to a new country with no networks, journalism felt like an impossible profession to get into but Twitter made it feel achieveable.
There were calls for jobs, pitches, threads of advice, community group chats and job announcements.
Now, the only accounts that sported the blue checkmark were those that had paid the £9.60 monthly subscription fee for Twitter Blue or had been paid for by Musk himself (Credits: REUTERS)
Every personal news klaxon post, made me hopeful that I could have my own announcement one day too. Maybe, even a blue tick.
At the height of the pandemic, someone even created a Twitter group chat for women of colour and non-binary people of colour journalists. It was around 50 of us supporting each others wins, sharing advice and opportunities.
The blue tick was meant to stop impersonation but evolved into a symbol of legitimacy. Especially today, when information is currency, legitimacy becomes priceless.
As a social media platform, Twitter was hardly a profitable business model. How do you monetise people’s thoughts and ideas sustainably?
When Musk put up blue ticks for sale, it meant you could buy your way to credibility.
Looking back, I realise journalists did not covet the blue tick as a mere status symbol.
We know first hand the dangers of misinformation. So, earning that credibility came with some responsibility and meant people could trust our tweets.
In many ways Twitter was the people’s platform. Unlike Facebook or Instagram, it did not reward you for aesthetics. It was knowledge sharing in it’s truest sense.
For a profession rooted in telling the truth and sharing honest opinions, it makes sense why us journalists based so much importance on a Twitter check mark.
Musk has been vocal about his disdain for the media and journalists in particular. Maybe it’s because he cannot buy our trust. So, he’s bought the internet’s so-called town square and made it into a member’s club for a very specific crowd.
Not the bightest idea it would seem, as paid blue ticks are worse than having none. Would you trust someone who had to pay to feel legitimate?
The move to charge for verification has backfired for obvious reasons with no ethical person wanting to be associated with a blue check mark. Some reports suggest that only 28 people that were previously verified had decided to pay to keep their checkmark after it was removed.
It’s the end of Twitter as we knew it. With paid verification, a seemingly non-existent content moderation team and questionable hate speech policies, it’s possible that the platform could decend into an echo chamber of disinformation and propaganda.
Over the years, many of the young journalists on my Twitter group chat got their blue ticks. Now, they’re back to not having one but the shared sentiment is that none of us want it.
As for me, Twitter did lead me to my current job but I’ve realised that I don’t need a blue tick to feel legit.
Although I did get an automated poop emoji from Twitter’s press email in response to an inquiry about what’s going on at the company. Maybe, that’s enough.
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