White nationalists and alt-right figures lose blue check mark after company receives backlash
By: Brandy Bond, Staff Writer
Twitter has updated its verification policy in order to mitigate verified accounts that promote hate speech, violence or harassment. The sudden change of the verification program happened on November 9th, after the criticism over the verification of Jason Kessler, the organizer of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this year.
Much of the criticism Twitter received was due to confusion over what the blue check mark actually represents. Originally, blue check marks were given to high-profile figures, organizations, and journalists to ensure their page’s authenticity. However, in July of 2016, Twitter opened up their verification process to the public, which allowed individuals and companies to receive the blue check mark based on their popularity on the site. This enabled many white nationalists, such as Kessler to gain verification on the site.
In response to the resounding criticism, the company quickly replied to all of its users on the Twitter site, stating the meaning behind the blue check marks and why certain individuals get verified. The company began their statement with: “Verification was meant to authenticate identity and voice but it is interpreted as an endorsement or an indication of importance. We recognize that we have created this confusion and need to resolve it.” This lead the company to pause all general verifications until they came up with a new policy which was released earlier this month.
On the 15th of November, Twitter put out five consecutive tweets about the new verification policy. They began by stating that “verification has been long perceived as an endorsement,” and continuing, “this perception became worse when we opened up verification for public submission and verified people who we in no way endorse.” With the release of this statement, the company makes it clear that they do not affiliate with verified users who promote hate and violence, or any verified users for that matter. It is also evident that the company is taking action to remove the individuals and various companies who don’t fit their new guidelines.
Following the November 15th statement, an influx of individuals were unverified on Twitter. Many of the unverified accounts belong to white nationalists as well as alt-right figures. Along with Jason Kessler, some of the individuals who were unverified include far-right activists Laura Loomer and James Allsup, white nationalist Richard Spencer, and fringe conservative site Rebel TV host, Tommy Robinson. Tim Gionet, another alt-right figure was not only unverified, but completely suspended from the service.
Many alt-right figures and white nationalists are unimpressed with Twitter’s decision to remove verification. Laura Loomer spoke out on Twitter after receiving an email from the company stating that she was unverified. The email states how her page does not “comply with Twitter’s guidelines for verified accounts.” However, Loomer believes the only reason she is being targeted and unverified is because of her status as a conservative.
Even with the backlash of many white nationalists and alt-right figures, Twitter states that they are continuing to remove verifications from accounts that do not comply with their policy. The company states they are continually working towards a new program with the hope that they will come up with a new system they can be proud of.