On Friday morning, Jeff Rep., Challenger to Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, did not have a blue confirmation badge on his official Twitter page. Sites announced its campaign months earlier, so it should have been reviewed months ago. A volunteer named Nancy Levine noticed who was monitoring Twitter's plan to review all 2020 candidates and hired Twitter specifically for sites.
After talking to Levine, The Verge contacted Twitter to inquire about the nature of the delay. The candidate was verified within a few hours.
However, the situation on the websites illustrates the ongoing clutter in Twitter's verification process, which the platform announces as a key tool to prevent disinformation. Twitter claims to have verified 822 candidates since it unveiled the 2020 plan in December, and still relies on people like Levine who aren't connected to any campaign to get them to act.
This is how the process should work: Ballotpedia checks whether a candidate is legitimate, either by contacting the candidate or by contacting the campaign. Once Ballotpedia has verified the candidate, it adds it to a list of candidates that are made available to Twitter weekly. Twitter should then check the information and give the candidate the blue check mark.
Levine has observed which candidates are being reviewed for 2020 and which are not, and contacted The Verge on Friday morning to indicate that the websites were still not being reviewed despite his March 17 primaries. Levine has become a kind of watchdog for the candidates' Twitter badges.
She says she has contacted Twitter reporters and employees directly about more than a dozen 2020 candidates, many of whom will be quickly screened for their requests. Levine, who leans toward democratic candidates, says she saw no signs of bias against either party; She found Republicans and Democrats waiting for confirmation from Twitter, sometimes a few weeks after the candidate's Ballotpedia page was complete.
Levine has a story of this type of agitation that first came out in public by trying to persuade the New York Times to update a ten-year-old story about a woman who ran an unregistered pet charity. Margaret Sullivan, who was the Times' public editor at the time, described Levine as "one of the toughest people I've ever come in contact with."
Levine says she found out about the review process after Twitter because she believes it improves competitive conditions. "Candidate screening is important to provide both the legitimacy and credibility of the candidate – and to ensure structural benefits on Twitter, such as placing search queries," Levine wrote to The Verge in an email. "In the age of dystopian disinformation, validating candidates and their messages is more important than ever."
Twitter admits that the rolling process has some delay between registering candidates with Ballotpedia and being reviewed by Twitter. Twitter interrupted its general review process in 2017 after being criticized for checking a white supremacist's account. The company says the goal when reviewing primary candidates is to prevent established companies from gaining an unfair advantage in primary races, which usually have higher visibility as a challenger.
The election labels that Twitter introduced in 2018 provide information about which office a candidate is running for and were popular with the candidates in the mid-term elections, Twitter says. As of March 3, also known as Super Tuesday, the platform will bring back official election labels for candidates who qualify for the general election.
Candidate screening is part of Twitter's larger mission – sometimes successful, sometimes less – to prevent misinformation about the 2020 election from spreading on its platform. Just before the Iowa gatherings, Twitter introduced a tool for US users to report cases of voter repression. From a drop-down menu, users can choose as options whether a political election is misleading or whether to suppress or intimidate someone. And on March 5, Twitter is expected to publish its media manipulation policy, which aims to curb the use of fabricated videos and images on the platform.
For its part, Twitter says its goal when reviewing the main candidates is to ensure that voters have as accurate and unbiased information as possible about the candidates. "Our entire process from the start – reviewing the candidates and the election label program – was designed to be impartial," said Twitter spokesman Nicholas Pacilio.