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Want the little blue checkmark by your Twitter handle? Now you can as Twitter broadens verification

The problem with Twitter — or any social network, for that matter — is that you never really know whether the stranger on the other end of an IM session is well, who they say they are. The anonymity afforded by the internet makes social engineering and impersonation all the easier, unfortunately, which is why networks like Twitter have implemented identity checks in an attempt to stem the worst abuses.

Historically, though. enrolling in those checks hasn’t been easy, but Twitter’s making inroads. On Tuesday, the social network broadened the availability of its “verified accounts” feature to “all users.”

Previously, Twitter limited eligibility for verified accounts — profiles with a little blue check mark indicating their authenticity — to particularly public, prolific, or otherwise high-profile users. Short of well-established brands like Pepsi and Apple and influential athletes, executives, politicians, or media, the social network didn’t dole out coveted verified accounts readily.

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Now, though, the network’s legions of unwashed masses have access to the same tool as its movers and shakers. Applying for verification is relatively straightforward: after ensuring your public account is associated with a verified phone number, confirmed email address, profile photo, birthday, and website, simply fill out the appropriate form.

You’ll also have to justify your account’s verification — specifically, said Twitter, your “impact in [your] field” or the “mission of your brand” — and you may be asked to provide a scan of a  government-issued ID “such as a passport of driver’s license.” And Twitter said it favors certain characteristics over others: real names and recognizable stage names, for one, plus header photos that “accurately” represent you. But assuming everything’s in order, you’ll become a bona fide member of the blue-check club, so to speak.

One reason behind Twitter verification’s broader rollout? Curbing abuse, according to Twitter’s vice president of user services Tina Bhatnagar. Verified users have the ability to filter replies, likes, and mentions by other verified users, a subset of the Twitter population typically less likely to engage in bullying or harassment. And the rift has widened as the network’s growth has outpaced verification — Twitter says its verified 187,000 of its 320 million monthly active users, or about .06 percent. Tuesday’s change in policy should help bridge the gap.

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The other motivation is a bit more pragmatic: easing the burden on Twitter’s verification team. Previously, Twitter allowed users to apply for verification, but shuttered the option in favor of manual selection in 2009 — a process which no doubt came to be time-consuming.”We want to make it even easier for people to find creators and influencers on Twitter so it makes sense for us to let people apply for verification,” Bhatnagar said in a press release. “We hope opening up this application process results in more people finding great, high-quality accounts to follow, and for these creators and influencers to connect with a broad audience.”

Twitter said the application will begin its launch among a limited pool of users today, and will roll out globally by the end of the week.