Twitter should let its users self-verify & let other users block non-verified accounts.

Have been thinking about the problem of Twitter harassment. Twitter doesn’t want to constrain its user base or content-police its users, which I get; such a task is too hard and culturally inflected and susceptible to governmental / institutional pressures. But it needs to mitigate harassment and abuse and at the very least allow its users to protect themselves from abusive accounts.

I’m not close to internal data that may make this idea infeasible, but it’s something I’ve been pondering: How might Twitter allow its users to protect themselves from abuse and enforce community standards while also preserving an extremely open and growth-oriented network?

  1. Like AirBnB, allow users to self-validate their accounts. Tie their accounts to a real-world, verifiable, discoverable identity like bank cards, drivers’ licenses, and phone numbers. (It does tie accounts to phone numbers, but doesn’t offer any actionable functionality based on this information.) Offering self-verification doesn’t mean users have to publish with their real names; it means that Twitter knows who they are if law enforcement needs to know. It also means that an abusive user can’t delete a banned or blocked account and create a fresh one to continue harassment; blocks and bans from other users get tied to the underlying account identifiers.
  2. Any user can create a policy to block or filter non-verified accounts / tweets or prevent such accounts from alerting them. I’m sure there are also probabilistic models of behavior that you can use to filter non-verified accounts – only let through things that some other real account has liked / retweeted / promoted or use content filtering. It’s not perfect but it’ll cut down on the ability of harassers and bullies to swarm.
  3. The beauty is that adding the option of a verified / validated layer doesn’t kill sub-clusters’ abilities to operate with anonymous participants as they do now, e.g. as is necessary under repressive regimes. Sub-networks concentrated around cultures facing oppressive regimes can continue cultural practices of networks of non-verified accounts to communicate; those groups are no worse off than they are today. But groups and networks where harassment is a problem can reject input of cowards hiding behind the anonymity that enables their abuse.

Thoughts?

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