The Industry

Twitter Basically Only Verifies Celebrity Babies Now

Well, and politicians.

On Monday, Alexis Ohanian, the husband of Serena Williams and co-founder and executive chairman of Reddit, shared a tweet from the account of his daughter, Olympia Ohanian, with the comment “Verified baby.” Olympia, who is 8 months old and about as cute as babies get, now has a verified account, one apparently piloted by her famous parents, that already has more than 5,000 followers.

It’s unsurprising Olympia’s parents would both want a social media presence for their daughter in order to reserve it for when she’s old enough to tweet herself, and it makes sense they’d want the account to be verified, since if someone impersonated her it could confuse fans.

But what is surprising is that Twitter verified a baby—or anyone!—at all. The company said it suspended its verification process last November after getting heat for bestowing a white nationalist with the coveted blue check mark, which carries several benefits: It reassures users that users are who they say they are, it gives them special tools for filtering replies to their tweets (the better to ignore harassment and general vitriol), and, for better or worse, confers a whiff of institutional endorsement. Since the program has been suspended, journalists and other public figures who have requested verification from Twitter have been put on hold. According to the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, Olympia’s account wasn’t verified as of May 8 of this year, which means it must have happened months after the program was suspended.

When I asked Twitter if it has reopened its verification process or if it’s just making an exception for celebrity infants, a spokesperson gave me the nonanswer that “our teams around the world continue to work closely with trusted partners to verify select accounts.” The company wouldn’t clarify what a “select account” is. Whatever the criteria are for select accounts, we at least know being the daughter of one of the greatest athletes in the world gets you in.

Despite the verification program’s current vacation in limbo, Twitter did say in January it was making some exceptions in preparation of the 2018 midterms, specifically for major-party candidates for statewide and federal elections as well as the accounts of major political parties. That’s an important exception, since what these people say matters, and someone impersonating them could confuse voters and sow confusion in what’s sure to be a chaotic, albeit critically important, election cycle. We need to be able trust the tweets of our politicians—and our famous babies.