BY Wesley Diphoko 3 MINUTE READ

Fake accounts and the need to create an online identity fuelled the need for verified accounts on Twitter. According to the New York Times, one of the first celebrities to be impersonated on Twitter was Shaquille O’Neal, who joined the platform in November 2008 and said he created an account in part because someone else had been impersonating him. At the time, a Twitter co-founder, Biz Stone, told The New York Times that the company was looking for a way to certify accounts and that the fake Shaq account was the first celebrity impersonation he had heard of on the website. Elon Musk wants to take verification to another level. He has declared his plans to bring an end to the free version of the blue verification badge. According to current Twitter requirements, the blue verified badge on Twitter lets people know that an account of public interest is authentic. Current requirements for receiving it require that the user’s account be authentic, notable, and active.

This distinguishing mark that separates well-known users from lesser-known and less active users has been instrumental in protecting the identities of users. As Musk is working out ways of generating revenue for the blue bird he has identified this feature as key. It is also an important feature for some of the key challenges at Twitter.

The challenge with the quality of conversation which tends to be toxic is a direct result of identities that are not verified. Currently, anyone can register on Twitter and come up with pseudonyms that fuel the tendency to abuse others with speech. Many have been hiding behind fake names to share fake news and use abusive speech toward others. A paid and authentic verified badge will take care of the abuse of identity on Twitter.

Bots are another major challenge on Twitter. They were one of the issues that delayed the acquisition of Twitter by Elon Musk. Bots can break a social platform as they create a false image of users. The verified badge will allow Twitter to know the real user numbers on the platform.

By pursuing a paid identity on Twitter Elon Musk is not only solving a Twitter challenge. He is solving an internet problem that requires digital identities to improve safety and the quality of engagement. An authentic identity online is key for the future of the internet. It is what will enable Elon Musk to turn Twitter into one of the most important fintech platforms on earth (a subject for another day).

Creating verified identities will also come with challenges. It will make it difficult for whistleblowers to speak out. It will also create difficulties for those who wish to remain anonymous for genuine reasons. The Twitter team will have to take this into account as they transform the platform.

One last challenge that will be solved by a verified badge is the means by which Twitter makes money. The platform has relied on advertising and that is proving to be a difficult source of revenue. Twitter needs a more robust source of revenue. The verified badge will do the trick for now. Paying governments and corporations for their existence on Twitter will add another layer of revenue sources.

The pill administered by Musk to the sick blue bird will eventually heal it. For now, it will be painful for many users who are used to the free service.

Governments across the world should pay closer attention to developments on Twitter. Governments have played a role in creating an identity for citizens. As more and more are existing in virtual environments there’s a great for digital identity.

Governments should have been the ones to create digital identities instead of a corporation. In this regard, most governments are lagging behind except for Estonia.

The changes at Twitter will have implications beyond the social media platform. If Musk manages to turn Twitter into a platform that has mostly verified users he will have a weapon to create the most important platform on the internet. He will have the data of citizens of the world given to him by consent. He will have achieved what most platforms failed to do. He will also play a role that governments played over the years. Elon Musk has changed transportation, space travel, and energy source as we know it. He is about to change how we get our identity.