Twitter Halts User Verification, Saying It's 'Broken'

Delia Watkins
November 10, 2017

The social-media company drew criticism for the process this week after it conferred a blue check mark on the account of Jason Kessler, who is credited with orchestrating the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August. "Verification was meant to authenticate identity & voice", reads a tweet on the company's support account, "but it is interpreted as an endorsement or an indicator of importance".

"Twitter has made a mess of everything related to race, racial harassment, online hate and this is just one more example of their inability to get it together on this front", said Heidi Beirich, spokeswoman for the Southern Poverty Law Center.

By Thursday morning, Twitter announced it would be halting its entire general verification program.

"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", Twitter's Vice President of user services, Tina Bhatnagar, said in a statement at the time. Twitter removed the blue check-mark from white-nationalist Milo Yiannopoulos before banning him from the platform previous year. Though Twitter has suspended several high-profile accounts associated with the alt-right movement, some white supremacist accounts are still active, including Richard Spencer's verified account.

Milo Yiannopoulos, former contributor for the right-wing site Breitbart, was also verified and then "un-verified" by Twitter, according to Vanity Fair, before he was permanently banned from the site.

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Additionally, Ed Ho, general manager of Twitter's Consumer Product tweeted that the company has known that the verification process was "busted".

Events in Charlottesville resulted in the death of protester Heather Hayer - who Kessler called a "fat, disgusting communist" in the aftermath. "We have created this confusion".

Twitter verifies all kinds of accounts it considers "of public interest", including celebrities, athletes and journalists (hi!). Chief executive Jack Dorsey said Twitter should have communicated its doubts about the verification system to users faster, and that the network had realized it needed to overhaul its verification process "some time ago".

Kessler did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Twitter's latest decision. Critics attacked the company for a move they said gave credibility and significance to white nationalism.

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