Twitter to start verifying candidates when they qualify for primary elections

Twitter to start verifying candidates when they qualify for primary elections
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Twitter on Thursday announced it will begin verifying congressional candidates who qualify for primaries, a reversal from its previous policy that only offered the coveted "blue check" to candidates who qualified in general elections.

The company said it will now verify all candidates running for the House, Senate or governor's mansion across the country in an effort to level the playing field between incumbents and little-known challengers. Twitter verification can increase a candidate's visibility and allow them to reach new swathes of supporters and donors on the platform with 126 million daily users.

Earlier this year, Twitter faced criticism for refusing to verify primary challengers running for Congress against established politicians who were often already verified, giving them the upper hand in establishing credibility among voters.

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"Starting today, Twitter will begin verifying the campaign Twitter accounts of candidates who have qualified for primary elections for the US House of Representatives, US Senate, and Governor, and have been identified by our research partners at Ballotpedia," Twitter's public policy director Bridget Coyne wrote in a blog post.

She noted, "this will happen on a rolling basis as states have different filing deadlines."

Twitter will partner with Ballotpedia, a nonprofit organization dedicated to compiling information on U.S. elections, to determine who will receive verification. 

The company is also planning to stick special "election labels" on candidates' accounts when they qualify for the general election ballot. The election labels, which offer information such as what office a candidate is running for and the state they're running in, will appear only for candidates running in the general election.

According to Twitter, in the week before the midterm elections in 2018, Twitter users saw accounts with election labels approximately 100 million times every day. 

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Twitter is facing competing pressures as it works to cultivate a platform that democratizes access to information while knee-capping the influence of fake social media accounts. In 2016, a troll farm linked to the Kremlin oversaw thousands of social media accounts impersonating activists and organizations in the U.S., including some Twitter accounts that imitated Republicans running for the House in the 2018 midterm cycle. Twitter says it does not allow any kind of election interference, regardless of verification status.

And this month, Twitter is working overtime to prove that it has an interest in uplifting the voices of little-known primary challengers after it announced that Twitter will no longer accept political advertisements from any candidates or elected officials. Some primary challengers and advocacy groups have argued they often use political advertisements to gain the upper-hand over their better-known competitors. 

Nick Pacilio, a Twitter spokesman, said Twitter made the change on Thursday in part to help level the playing field among all political candidates.