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Twitter Has a White-Nationalist Verification Problem

12 November 2017

Earlier this week, Twitter verified Jason Kessler, the white nationalist and principal organizer behind the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one dead in August - and many people are unhappy about it.

"Verification was meant to authenticate identity and voice but it is interpreted as an endorsement or an indicator of importance", the company said in a statement. White-nationalist figure Milo Yiannopoulos was "un-verified" previous year amid a free-speech controversy without much explanation, and has since been banned from the platform. When verified Twitter users engage with other users on the platform, their engagement is more likely to send a notification, and verified users have the option to only get notifications from other verified users.

When Twitter puts a verified check mark next to a white nationalist's name, is the company endorsing that person? "We have paused all general verifications while we work and will report back soon", read a tweet from @TwitterSupport account.


Dorsey added: "We should've communicated faster on this: our agents have been following our verification policy correctly, but we realised some time ago the system is broken and needs to be reconsidered".

Twitter verifies all kinds of accounts it considers "of public interest", including celebrities, athletes and journalists (hi!). (I'm not verified, but I recently applied to be.) When accounts are verified, they float to the top of the platform's search results for "top tweets".

On Thursday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey chimed in on the controversy as well, acknowledging that the company had known about problems with its verification system for some time. And among users, the blue checkmark has become a sort of status symbol that implies legitimacy-many are more likely to trust a verified account simply due to its verified status. Rather, the goal of verification is to simply confirm that the account holder is who they say they are.

Twitter Has a White-Nationalist Verification Problem