A week after being criticized for verifying the account of white nationalist Jason Kessler, Twitter has revoked the blue checkmark from his account. They have also removed the verification from other far-right white supremacist accounts including Richard Spencer. The account Baked Alaska, an alt-right troll account, has been suspended completely.
Twitter tweeted out, “Verification was meant to authenticate identity & voice but it is interpreted as an endorsement or an indicator of importance. We recognize that we have created this confusion and need to resolve it.“
In order to combat this confusion, Twitter has implemented changes to their verification policy and stopped all general verifications for the moment. Reasons for removal of the verification can include intentional misleading people, promoting hate or violence against others “on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease” and harassing others.
Verification was meant to authenticate identity & voice but it is interpreted as an endorsement or an indicator of importance. We recognize that we have created this confusion and need to resolve it. We have paused all general verifications while we work and will report back soon
— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) November 9, 2017
Some of the accounts are claiming that Twitter is censoring their free speech. The account of alt-right activist Laura Loomer is another one that lost its verification blue badge. She tweeted saying that she sees this as “a form of censorship. And censorship is the first step to tyranny.” However, as a private sector company, Twitter has no legal free speech obligations to those using the microblogging service.
Others are complaining that the new verification changes are being applied inconsistently and seems to be targeting outspoken members of the alt-right community. Kessler, the organizer of “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, tweeted, “I don’t engage in harassment. I simply stand up for white rights and criticize mass immigration policies. They’re also supposed to give a warning & ask you to delete an offending tweet.”
Twitter is attempting to change its reputation of being too lenient with extremist accounts. The company can now remove verification based on actions done on Twitter but also behaviors in real life. Accounts will not lose the ability to tweet after their verification is revoked.