Last week, app researcher Jane Manchun Wong pointed out that Twitter is testing a new profile badge for people who have verified their phone numbers. Earlier this month, app sleuth Nima Owji also pointed out that the company is testing a phone verification badge. On Tuesday, the company confirmed that it is running this experiment to “allow people to add context to their accounts.”
This could be to essentially verify that a user with the phone verification badge is not a bot. The company said this is one of the ways that helps people find credible info and gives more information about different types of accounts. It added that verification is only one part of the process and it’s currently only testing the phone number verification with an opt-in setting. The firm didn’t provide any information about how widespread is the test and who will see the badge.
The company is in a fierce legal battle with Elon Musk regarding its acquisition and the number of bots on the platform is an issue of the conflict. The Tesla CEO has argued with the platform multiple times in the last few months claiming that the number of spam and fake accounts are way higher than what Twitter claims to be. Musk has also disagreed with the way the company estimates 5% of users to be bots on the platform.
Twitter already has some unique profile markers like the verified badge for notable accounts like journalists and celebrities, a label for helpful bots on the platform, and a marker for government officials and state-backed media. While these labels are applied to a limited number of accounts, a verified phone number badge could be applicable to millions of accounts.
For context, the firm recently fixed a bug that allowed threat actors to search for a phone number and check if there was an existing Twitter profile connected to it, which impacted at least 5.4 million accounts.
The social media firm said that it’s taking multiple initiatives to maintain the authenticity of the conversation on the platform “by giving people more ways to identify and express themselves on Twitter and in their profiles.” However, it’s not clear if a verified phone number badge is a form of expression rather than a marker of a non-bot profile.
Twitter is not the first platform to try self-verification. Dating apps like Bumble and Tinder have had photo-based voluntary verification processes. In India, a local-language Twitter rival Koo offers users to verify themselves through approved government IDs and earn a badge.