A Very Silly Workaround to Verify the @scalzi Account on Twitter is Actually Me, John Scalzi
Posted on November 6, 2022 Posted by John Scalzi 33 Comments
Because the blue check mark on Twitter is now a symbol of subscription status, rather than being a symbol that Twitter has verified that an account is held by the person it purports to represent, I offer the following, with apologies for the occasional use of the third person, and with informational bits up front and editorial in the back:
Hello! This is just to note, from author John Scalzi’s personal site (note the scalzi.com URL), which has been around since 1998, and which has verifiably been under his control that entire time, that “@scalzi” is the correct and official Twitter account for John Scalzi. Please note that “scalzi” here is spelled correctly and with no substitutions (for example, no capital “i” where the “L” is in the word), nor are there any additional characters in the name or after it, including underscores or numbers.
Please also note that Twitter allows users to easily change the “name” of their account, but not so easily the account handle (the part with the “@” in it), and never to an existing account handle, so always check the account handle to see if my or any other account is being spoofed. See the illustration below:
Note also that the icon/avatar of an account (the image that accompanies the name and account handle) can be changed at will and may be used to intentionally confuse/spoof/troll people.
Again, always check the Twitter handle to confirm the identity of the account. In my case, “@scalzi” is the correct and official John Scalzi account.
That should do it.
As of this writing (November 6, 2022) the “@scalzi” account has a blue check mark on it, but given the decision by the current Twitter management to make the blue check mark a symbol that one has subscribed to Twitter Blue, rather than a symbol that the account is verifiably held by the person it purports to be, that blue check mark may disappear off my Twitter account at any time, thus the need to have outside verification that the “@scalzi” account is the official account of John Scalzi, author.
(As a matter of disclosure, I will note that prior to this whole set of nonsense, I was a subscriber to the “Twitter Blue” service from the time it had become available, because I wanted access to some of its capabilities, including the “undo” and “edit” functions. I may or may not continue to be a subscriber to it, depending on its value proposition to me.)
As of this writing, it is my understanding that the blue check mark symbol will be available to Twitter Blue subscribers without verification that the person is who they purport to be (aside from the extremely basic and unreliable method of making sure the payment for the subscription goes through). Therefore, there are two things to remember, with regard to Twitter, at this point:
1. There no longer exists any verifiable method from Twitter itself to confirm an account holder is who they purport to be.
2. The blue check mark symbol should no longer be considered trustworthy in terms of identity, even on accounts which displayed it previous to its association with the Twitter Blue subscription.
Both of these are incredibly important. The first of these means (counter to the marketing of Twitter Blue’s takeover of the blue check mark) that Twitter is now extremely unreliable as a source of news and information, more than it already was. Where the blue check mark was a first-line prophylactic against disinformation (at the very least, you knew the account was who it said it was), it now falls entirely to the user to confirm the source as well as the information. Many Twitter users won’t, and those who traffic in disinformation know that. Twitter used to know that, too.
The second of these means that even if currently verified users keep their checkmarks (as legacy holdovers or because they subscribe to Twitter Blue), the symbol has become useless for verification purposes because the blue check’s meaning has been changed. Twitter users moving forward have no way of knowing from Twitter itself when the blue check mark was granted to the user, and thus, whether it signifies “verified user” or “subscriber.” When in doubt (which for most people will be always), one should assume the blue check now means “subscriber.” If the rumor that current verified Twitter users will have a grace period to subscribe to Twitter Blue or else lose the checkmark is true, then in a few months the blue check mark will only mean “subscriber” anyway, with no association to verification.
Either way, and to repeat: The blue check mark on Twitter no longer means what it did. Its meaning has changed from “This account is verifiably this person” to “I pay money for Twitter.” The current management of Twitter wants potential subscribers, and current verified users, to believe the blue check mark confers status in itself, rather than for what it previously represented. Anyone who rushes to subscribe to Twitter in order to receive the status benefit of the blue check mark, however, should be prepared for value of the mark to decrease dramatically as the new meaning of the mark comes to the fore.
(Two side notes here: First, anyone planning to subscribe to Twitter Blue for certain other features, such as priority placement in replies and searches, should be aware the priority placement will mean nothing if you’re muted or blocked, so thinking that $8/month will give you license to be a jerk will just mean you’re wasting $8; Second, if “Twitter” continues calling its subscriber check mark “verification,” and trying to position it as such, someone should probably file a lawsuit alleging deceptive trade practices.)
I am not planning to leave Twitter in the near future — thus, the need for this note — and I may choose to continue to subscribe to Twitter Blue, which means I may continue to have a blue check mark on my account. The blue check means only that one is a subscriber, and no other meaning should be attached to it, either for my account or any other. It certainly doesn’t mean “verification” anymore. Verification on Twitter no longer exists. You take your chances on who and what you find there. Unless they just happen to be able to, say, point to their own Web site of a quarter-century’s standing, or can point to verified standing on other social media (I’m verified on Facebook, as an example).
But this is a very silly workaround that not everyone has, and it’s ridiculous that the current Twitter management has now made something like this the best way to verify that an account on their service represents who it purports to. Twitter should know better. Perhaps it does, but it just doesn’t care. And that is something to be aware of, too.
A couple of additional thoughts:
One, I don’t think there’s any problem subscribing to Twitter Blue; I mean, obviously, since I’ve been subscribing to it all this time, prior to this blue check nonsense, so dragging people for paying for a more feature-packed version of Twitter makes as much sense as dragging people for paying for a premium version of any other tech service (for example, I also pay for YouTube Premium because I have no desire to watch ads there).
Two, and let me bold this, verification on Twitter should always have been available to everyone and shouldn’t have even become a fucking status symbol. Which is to say, anyone should have been able to work with Twitter to verify their identity and gain a blue check; it was Twitter’s choice to offer it weirdly and haphazardly and make it an object of desire. I mean, I got my blue check because a Twitter employee asked me if I wanted to be verified; it was like a tap on the shoulder at Skull & Crossbones. I said yes, clearly, so call me hypocrite if you like, BUT it should have been as simple as me filling out a form and then just having that checked out and confirmed, here’s your blue check, anyone can get it, bye.
Three, until the blue check settles into its new “I subscribe” meaning, it’s gonna be a real pain in the ass time over there on Twitter. Which is why I’ve now updated my bio to remind people: It means “subscriber,” not “verified.”
Four, while I’m thinking about it, here are the other accounts under my control:
@scamperbeasts, which is the account for my cats;
@blogwhatever, which is a headline feed for this blog;
@ScalziEnt, which is an account for Scalzi Enterprises, my LLC (there’s nothing there now other than a post informing people there’s nothing there)
Any power or credibility that Twitter or any other social media might have has been freely given by the users. It can be freely taken away and, in this case, should be.
I rarely use Twitter, and all this nonsense makes it even less useful for me. I’m probably just going to delete my account. I don’t pay, currently, and there’s no value for me to start.
I think that instead of “tweeps”, those who continue to use the site should be referred to as “musk-oxen”.
I am not on twitter, so all I can go by are news reports that indicate a massive rise in racist and antisemitic content. Not a great image.
Since I only ever used Twitter to check on local news/alerts/emergencies, in one fell swoop it has become useless for this function *not quite, but I will have to check the handle to be sure that the report of busloads of Antifa coming to Seattle are real or not.
This isn’t a silly workaround at all.
The only silly part about it is the need to do it in the first place. It’s simply moving the center of trust from Twitter to something else that’s verifiably you. Sort of a homegrown 2FA.
The best part is that it’s totally under your control, and that you can use it for anything, not just Twitter.
Heh. 26 years. 1997-03-29 Name, Phone, Email all on my subdomain page. Mostly bitrot otherwise.
Still actively blogging on my 18 year old blog. “Friday, October 07, 2005”
Wouldn’t have gotten on Twitter except work required it. Wouldn’t have stayed on except I found @scalzi and other excellent authors over there. When it goes away, perhaps I’ll update my OG website fully. (need to remember perl . . . )
Can verified users not change their @username? Normal users can – I did it a couple years ago when I changed my name, and I still have the option available when I look at my settings. Most people probably won’t bother for a throwaway joke, but I wouldn’t rely on it never happening at all.
Don’t delete your Twitter account. Just lock it and deactivate it. If you delete it, the account handle will at some point become available to new users. Now, this may not be a big deal for anonymous accounts, but for anyone who is currently verified or isn’t anonymous it would be.
This is why especially the IndieWeb people are adamant about that everyone should be their own identity provider on the net and not give that role away to any silo|3rd party. Yes, a domain costs (just like a phone number). Even if it just holds a single page referencing “official” profiles. I’m aware that this isn’t an identity check but it’s enough to tell profile equivalence and this is the more important part.
BTW: Love your books 🤓
If can be changed but it requires a more significant effort and the cooperation of the service, as opposed to just changing the name, which you can do in the settings.
I set up an account but never used it. And today on a local FB page, some edgelord was encouraging everyone to go on twitter because “you can say n****r all you want! Free speech at last!” So I don’t see any reason to start using it now. Just no. Life’s too short.
This speaks volumes to how the current owner of Twitter 1. Didn’t understand the platform 2. How he didn’t understand why the blue check mark existed 3. How totally out of touch he is with users since all we wanted were an edit button, a decent way of stopping hate speech and abuse, and to ensure blatant lies don’t take on a life of their own. Turning Twitter into a subscription platform is disappointing.
Very nice explainer.
I’m very entertained that Valerie Bertinelli is now posting as “Elon Musk”, which perfectly illustrates your points.
“…Twitter is now extremely unreliable as a source of news and information, more than it already was.”
Hahahaha … [gasp] No, really? Hahahaha! [wheeze] Hahahahahaha!
You’re at your best doing comedy, John. Hard for a sci-fi author. Amirite?
Also, “musk-oxen”. Pricesless. “Let us slaughter a musk-oxen in honor of the graven image of the golden Elon-hymn.”
I needed a laugh this week. Thanks.
If you doubt an account’s veracity, scroll back on their timeline to last month or before. Those old tweets can’t be changed except to be deleted and they’ll help tell you if they’re authentic or not.
If you already follow trusted accounts, you’ll know they’re the right one by going to their profile where it will say Following.
You can also add accounts to a PRIVATE list whether you follow them or not, and if you pin that list, it appears next to your timeline in the app. The nice thing about lists is ALL the tweets appear, in perfect reverse chronological order, with NO ads. I only follow 31 people but it means I get to see what I want, not what Twitter wants me to see.
Actually I should have said that pinned lists appear next to your feed in the app, not your timeline. It’s next to the heading of either Latest Tweets or Home, depending on your setting.
Request permission to cross post, please?
I would pay a modest monthly fee forever for a service JUST LIKE TWITTER VIA TWEETBOT (no ads, no trends). I’m using Tweetbot every day—it’s my main conduit to the wider world. If I were concerned about impersonation, I’d pay a one-time fee up to, say, $25, for reliable verification and I’d be glad to rely on verified accounts.
Good idea, and one I’ll emulate with my own (less-well-known) personal blog. I’ve been lucky to get verified because of my career (journalist), but I’m totally with you on how meaningless that badge is going to be.
It’s a vanity plate that says IPD4THS and nothing more.
Linking is not a problem –
[Deleted because it doesn’t appear to be on topic — JS]
+n to ArbysMom’s comment about lists. if your list is suitably ‘currated’ you don’t have to worry about algorithmic timeline nonsense
I would never pay Twitter for anything under the new management. It’s my hope Musk will be forced to sell at a major loss within a year. I would be perfectly willing to pay a low monthly feed if I knew Twitter was being properly managed and moderated to eliminate trolls and fake news. But that won’t be happening as long as the current owner is calling the shots. That said, this is my personal choice. I’m not dissing anyone else who finds some value in the extra features subscribing affords.
Kathy Griffin changed her Twitter name to Elon Musk and was summarily banned. Allegedly.
Which she should be. But kudos to her anyway.
Elon Musk did to the blue check mark what the Trump era did to the word elite: annihilate it of meaning.
I don’t use Twitter anymore, but when I was on there I never regarded the blue check mark as a status marker. I saw it as a utility, that for public figures they can go to Twitter and say, yes, this is actually me and I have custody over the account with my name. Being on the internet a long time, I know how easy it is to create an impostor or parody account.
Who do I think created the false crisis of blue check as status symbol? Populists. Blue check marks didn’t actually confer any kind of luxury upon an account, just like “Elite” on Yelp means you contribute a lot and you get invited to special events sponsored by the site. You don’t get hotel rooms when the place is booked, airlines don’t upgrade your seat class, you don’t get any special treatment at restaurants. If you got those things, you had clout from the money, power and/or fame you accrued before you got the blue check mark for free.
But when “quantity has a quality all its own” gets elevated to ideology, the mind does get a scrambled. Quantity gets confused for quality. Cause gets confused for effect. And most insidiously, envy gets confused for disdain.
So by selling blue check marks for $8 a month, the Elon Musk Twitter regime gets to eat its cake and have it too. He will gull status-anxious populists into subscribers by tricking them into believing that this is a great redistribution of status, and drive away some users who paid zero to get a blue check for probably paying in other ways in the bizarre bazaar of life to require one. The people who leave end up taking that sense of meaning to the void. Thus, annihilating its meaning.
I am a very small fry on twitter. I joined it a few years ago because it was the best place to find people I enjoyed and could no longer read on the ailing makinglight site. I have since expanded who I follow to include a number of writers, some carefully-selected historians and political figures, and some random other things I find interesting. If the people whose content I enjoy move elsewhere, I will follow them. I’m not seeing the more obnoxious “free speech” effects so don’t feel an immediate urge to bail from the site yet. I would probably have been willing to pay a subscription fee previously – I don’t need any extra features, but TANSTAAFL and I believe in supporting things I like. But now that it’s being positioned as a status feature and not a community feature, nah.
This article by James Fallows is the best explanation of what is happening both to the media in general and specifically to Twitter that I have read. You can find it here
The “blue check” would have been more trustworthy and meaningful if once verified, the user couldn’t change their name. Nothing has ever stopped users from getting verified then changing their name to something else and keeping the checkmark. If it had, we wouldn’t have seen so many Elon Musks with checkmarks by their name this past weekend.
BSchnebs said: “The “blue check” would have been more trustworthy and meaningful if once verified, the user couldn’t change their name. Nothing has ever stopped users from getting verified then changing their name to something else and keeping the checkmark.“
Except those who get married, get higher education degrees, become elected officials, etc. who have perfectly valid reasons to change their name wouldn’t be able to. Not to mention plenty of verified accounts who change their name to reflect the season, like Halloween or Thanksgiving names. Because your @ handle doesn’t change, it becomes imperative that people look at those more closely and more often, or “bookmark” (by following or putting on a list) those who they trust.
When I get a valid email from a company I trust that includes a link to click (like my bank saying my statement is ready), I still log in through my bookmark, for safety reasons. Using the same safety methods on Twitter, as I mentioned in my earlier comment, will help keep people from being deceived.
I suspect the average twitter user in virtual space doesn’t want to be as ethical as a journalist because they don’t want to be like a journalist in real space, any more than they want to be a lady or gentleman. Easier to be the town gossip, or be careless with their speech.
Hence the average social media user doesn’t know, or even want to know, what “journalism ethics” are—even though we supposedly live in a “media age.” Or am I being too harsh on my fellow townspeople?
The Atlantic’s Charlie Warzel is becoming indispensable with his Twitter coverage in his “Galaxy Brain” newsletter. The saga is like a true crime podcast.
This is life after the layoffs of 50% of the staff, and advertisers canceling their deals while Musk was in on the conference call.
I know it’s very pedantic, but…
It’s a WHITE check mark!