Science | March 22, 2020 5:33 pm

How Twitter Uses Verification to Point Readers to Coronavirus Experts

When social media meets public health

Twitter HQ
Twitter is using its verification system to help users find accurate information on the coronavirus.
FASTILY/Creative Commons

Spending time on social media in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic means seeing a lot of information and recommendations for what’s been going on. Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to tell if you’re seeing advice from an expert in infectious diseases — or just commentary from some dude who’s been stockpiling Purell.

Gizmodo reports that one social media platform has figured out a way to help its users separate good advice from potentially nonsensical (or harmful) advice. Alyse Stanley chronicled Twitter’s efforts to use its verification system — you know, the one with the blue checkmarks — to direct its users to actual experts in the field whose advice is worth heeding.

This week, Twitter Support put out a call for accounts that are “providing credible updates around #COVID19,” the potentially deadly respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus. The tweet also includes instructions on how accounts can best update their information to increase their likelihood of snagging a blue checkmark.

In a Tweet directed at experts in the field, Twitter wrote that “we are prioritizing Verification for Twitter accounts that have an email address associated with an authoritative organization or institution.”

While Twitter’s system of verification has come under criticism in the past, this current program seems like a good way to alleviate some of the issues of earlier years. And if this is able to help more people find relevant, helpful information during a public health emergency, so much the better.

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