Instagram touts trust through transparency as it begins letting users apply for verified accounts

How much is that blue check mark next to your name on Instagram worth? In some markets, it can reportedly fetch up to $15,000 — a trend the photo sharing site hopes to squash with a new verification application process.

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Facebook-owned Instagram will begin allowing users in Australia to apply for verification on the service, according to Nine. At launch on Wednesday, it will be limited to users on Apple’s iOS within the country.

Instagram is opting for a limited launch to allow the service to work out the kinks before it expands globally. The company also indicated that it is focused on transparency, providing users “clear details about verification requirements and eligibility criteria.”

Beyond transparency, the effort will also allow Instagram to fight back against a black market for Instagram verification, driven by demand for a verified digital identity. Some claim to have charged as much as $15,000 for the privilege of a blue check mark, according to Mashable.

Blue check marks on Instagram — as well as Twitter — are typically given to celebrities, athletes, “influencers,” and other famous people on the platform. The intent is to undermine copycat accounts or stolen digital identities, but the blue check has also been seen by some as an implicit form of endorsement of users awarded a verified account.

OWI Insight: The blue check mark — whether on Instagram or Twitter or elsewhere — is a badge of honor for digital identity. It also wields some level of power and can imply the trustworthiness of a source, which has caused critics to take issue with the manner in which verified accounts are awarded. Twitter’s lack of transparency in how it approves or revokes verified accounts has placed the site under considerable criticism. Instagram’s comments would suggest the site hopes to avoid the issues Twitter has faced as it opens up verified accounts to more users, and its slow and measured approach is a good sign that Facebook is taking the issue seriously and giving it the thought it deserves.