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I’ve tried half a dozen times now to get my Twitter account verified. Each time, I’ve been rejected. “We reviewed the account, and unfortunately it is not eligible to be verified at this time.”

Here are the 500 characters I submitted this last time around, requesting the blue checkmark:

Globally-recognized expert on education technology. Spencer Education Fellow at the Columbia University School of Journalism. Keynote speaker. Freelance writer (my work has appeared in The Atlantic and The Baffler and elsewhere). Author of four books on education technology. Owner/author of Hack Education, the only independent news and analysis of education technology. Critic. Public figure. Woman in tech (thus frequently harassed on Twitter).

I’ve tried variations on this – sometimes stressing my writing, sometimes stressing my speaking, sometimes stressing my status as a woman in tech and thus someone who’s experienced harassment on the platform. I initially thought that I was denied because I’m a freelance writer – someone without institutional affiliation. But having a Spencer fellowship hasn’t made a difference.

In my application, I’ve included links to my websites (including Hack Education, whose Twitter account actually has been verified), to stories about me in publications like The Chronicle of Higher Education, to university websites that describe me as a fellow, to my author’s page on Amazon.

Each time, I’ve submitted a copy of my driver’s license, so there is no doubt – no matter whether I count as “Twitter famous” or not – that my identity has been verified. I am Audrey Watters.

I think it’s too easy to sneer and say “verification doesn’t matter.” (It’s a common response to the process: “who cares about a blue checkmark?”) As a writer working outside of institutions, as someone who is critical of much of the prevailing thoughts in my field, as a woman in tech, I find my authority and expertise policed and undermined all the time. Twitter’s refusal to verify my account is yet another example of this.

And it does matter – not just for me or for everyone who’s denied. (And anecdotally, this sure seems to include a lot of women.) It matters because it’s another way in which marginalization in the public sphere happens, another way in which technology companies are able to flex their power in legitimizing certain people (their work, their ideas) through a process that has no transparency. It’s not just that Twitter is key to unlocking verification on other platforms – Facebook, Wikipedia, and so on; it’s that tech companies get to decide “who counts” as a public figure. (And frankly, as I’m fighting for a more just future for education while fighting just to make ends meet, I can’t simply shrug this off and say it’s cool if my work and my identity don’t “count.”)

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Audrey Watters


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Audrey Watters

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