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  • Writer's pictureFungai Machirori

The Pros and Cons of Social Media Paid Verification

Updated: May 12, 2023

The world of social media has always been a complex one.

Ideally, anyone can become a voice, regardless of their level of credibility, social status or expertise. But recently, Twitter and Meta (parent company to Facebook, Instagram and Messenger) have announced that they will be introducing a paid verification system on their platforms (currently, Meta’s verification system is only available to users in the USA). This new system will allow users to pay for a verification badge, which will display on their profiles and indicate that they have been vetted by the platform as a credible source of information.

One of the main benefits of a paid verification system is that it could help to restore trust in social media as a source of reliable information. With so much misinformation circulating online, users are often left wondering who they can trust. By providing a verification badge to those who have been vetted by the platform, Twitter and Meta are providing users with a clear signal that they can rely on the information that these users are sharing. At the same time, it could exacerbate existing inequalities by giving some users an unfair advantage over others. There is also a risk that this new system will create an unfair advantage for those who are able to pay for verification. This could further deepen the existing inequalities as users who are already marginalized or underrepresented may not have the resources to pay for verification.

Meanwhile, Twitter users were having a field day about Twitter Blue after the launch of Twitter Blue. Through the hashtags #BlueCheckMark and #BlueTick, tweeps without the blue checkmark were ecstatic that notable celebrities lost their checkmarks (those celebs with over 2 million followers later got their blue checks back without paying, however).

Tweeps felt that this placed everyone on equal footing in terms of controlling and contributing to the discourse on the platform. In other words, those without blue checks saw the disappearance of blue checks as a way to restore order and equality in social spaces, whilst another camp was of the view that it will make it easy for the rich to dominate social spaces because they can afford to pay.

Meanwhile, most celebs have been quiet with regard to their losing the checkmark causing tweeps to speculate that perhaps they don't see much value in the new paid verification system. With that in mind

The move towards verification has significant implications for social media as a public sphere. On one hand, it could help to combat the spread of misinformation by giving users a way to identify credible sources of information, while on the other, it could give some users an unfair advantage over others. The paid verification system could lead to the creation of echo chambers. Users who are verified are more likely to have their content seen and shared, while unverified users may struggle to gain visibility. This could lead to a situation where certain viewpoints and opinions are amplified, while others are silenced.

It is also worth noting that the paid verification system may not be fool proof. It is possible that some users could still manage to game the system, either by paying for verification or by finding other ways to present themselves as credible sources of information. If the majority can pay for verification then the system collapses. Users can establish themselves as credible information sources through the sharing of accurate information. The more informative the user is, the more followers they get and the more their messages can reach a wider audience without the blue verification.

Ultimately, the success of the paid verification system will depend on how it is implemented and how it is received by users. Celebrities and opinion leaders were previously impervious to losing their verification badges on Twitter. But this has all changed now.

If Twitter and Meta are able to create a system that is fair, transparent, and effective, then it could have a positive impact on social media as a public sphere. However, if the system ends up exacerbating existing inequalities or creating new problems, then it could end up doing more harm than good.

As social media continues to play an increasingly important role in shaping public opinion and discourse, it is important for platforms like Twitter and Meta to take steps to ensure that users are able to trust the information that they are consuming. Whether the paid verification system is the right approach and whether it will be successful remains to be seen.

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