Posted on 10 June 2017
A few weeks ago, I noticed a hashtag floating across my Twitter feed: #BillMeetScienceTwitter. Here’s what it looked like:
— Sarah Leo (@sstleo_87) May 19, 2017
— Kaeli Swift (@corvidresearch) May 19, 2017
— Carl Rodriguez (@aCarlRodriguez) May 19, 2017
— Robyn Lacy (@robyn_la) May 19, 2017
Super cool, right!?
I followed about a dozen people doing research I thought looked interesting and it has been great seeing their work in changing how we understand the world pop up in my feed alongside the latest political news and hot takes.
I also noticed something almost all of these accounts have in common: none are verified.
It's interesting that people like me get blue checkmarks but working scientists and researchers do not#BIllMeetScienceTwitter
— Andrew Kurjata (@akurjata) May 20, 2017
If you don’t live on Twitter you may not know what I mean. If you look at my profile, you’ll see a blue checkmark beside my name. This is something Twitter gives certain users to verify they are real.
“The blue verified badge on Twitter lets people know that an account of public interest is authentic.”
“An account may be verified if it is determined to be an account of public interest. Typically this includes accounts maintained by users in music, acting, fashion, government, politics, religion, journalism, media, sports, business, and other key interest areas.”
Notice who isn’t on there?
Scientists and, more broadly, academics.
I find this curious. Surely if fashion, acting, music and l’il ol’ me are considered “an account of public interest” people researching climate change and the nature of time and space are, as well?
Twitter backs away from the idea that “authenticity” = “authority” but it definitely drives audience. In the weeks after I received my checkmark, I received dozens of new followers. And I do think it’s fair to say that checkmark does signal some level of “this is an account worth following.”
I think it’s a message about Twitter’s priorities- and ours as a society, more generally- that someone who got famous off of trafficking in conspiracy theories gets a blue checkmark while people who specialize in constitutional law or Arctic ice shelf research do not.
I’m verified because I was on a batch-list of people working for an established media organization. Surely Twitter could offer the same to academic institutions or peer-reviewed journals?
Twitter: meet science twitter.
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