Late last week, Twitter revealed plans to give a special badge to accounts with a verified phone number. The latest move is a bid to help its users legitimize their accounts. Hence, a phone number-verified badge will enable people to add context to their accounts.
Interestingly, this plan comes as Twitter faces intense scrutiny over the number of bot accounts on its platform. Besides, even Elon Musk backed out of the acquisition deal and is going to court against Twitter due to bot account numbers on the platform. Thus, many experts are questioning the real motive behind the new badges. Some are even debating whether these badges would be enough to reduce spam accounts and trolls on the platform.
A Special Badge Can Be Helpful
Many experts think that Twitter needs to deal with the issue of the number of spam and fake accounts on the platform. Kelly Ann Collins, a social media expert and Twitter creator, noted that “spam has been a surprisingly horrible issue on Twitter.” She believes a phone number-verified badge could be a good move on Twitter’s part. Collins thinks it “would lend a layer of credibility” to users who do not have a Twitter Verified badge. “There are many people who try to get verified because they want their audiences to know that they are, in fact, real people. I believe this would help them, too,” said Collins.
But, some experts believe that a phone number-verified badge could pose some potential issues.
Drawbacks of a Phone Number-Verified Badge
Linda Pophal, a digital marketing specialist and a Strategic Communications consultant, pointed out, “It’s very easy to attain phone numbers—-even using numbers with zip codes specific to a certain area.” Thus, she believes that regardless of these new badges, “spammers and spam bots will still exist to some degree” on Twitter.
Moreover, some experts like Baruch Labunski, Rank Secure (a digital marketing and content firm) founder, believe the new badges are “primarily a PR move” by Twitter to avoid “revelations that it may have significantly more bots than it previously stated.” He also thinks it’s a “pre-court move” to gear up for the trail with Musk in October.
Furthermore, Labunski believes that “another problem is with security around Twitter obtaining phone numbers.” He noted that Twitter has previously admitted to having been unsuccessful in protecting users’ phone numbers. So, he wonders if people would trust the platform again with this private information. Plus, he thinks that although fake phone numbers might limit the validity of the new badge, “those who make a living off of selling and using bots will use these [fake number services] to continue with fake accounts.”
Whether Twitter’s move is a PR stunt to combat revelations about the number of bot accounts or a pre-court move, we will never know. But one thing is clear—-not everyone will want to add phone numbers to their Twitter account. The reason, as Labunski said, is that one of the best features of online platforms is giving users the ability to stay anonymous. Thus, “adding a verified phone number negates anonymity.”
And although for some users gaining recognition by receiving a badge is very important, for some users, it might be dangerous. “A phone number-verified badge could put some users at risk of harassment and stalking, as numbers can be traced to locations. That is a real concern in this politically divisive environment,” says Labunski.