A few hours after announcing a review of its verification program, Twitter began revoking the verified status of some accounts. White supremacists Richard Spencer and Jason Kessler are among the users who no longer have a blue checkmark displayed on their profiles.
On Wednesday, Twitter admitted in a thread on its support account that “verification has long been perceived as an endorsement,” something its critics have argued for years about the program, which began in 2009 to prevent impersonation accounts. The problem was compounded last year when the verification program opened to allow public submissions. Twitter said yesterday that it has stopped accepting public submissions as it reviews the program and “remove(s) verification from accounts whose behavior does not fall within these new guidelines.”
Its updated rules say Twitter will now remove verification for “behaviors on and off Twitter,” including promoting hate and violence; threatening people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability or disease; supporting hate groups; harassing others and violent behavior. Accounts can still tweet after losing verification.
Some of the first users who lost their checkmarks are accusing Twitter of censorship. Thanks to a talent for self-promotion, including on social media platforms like Twitter, Richard Spencer is one of the best-known white nationalist and neo-Nazis in the United States. After Twitter revoked his verified status, Spencer, who is banned from visiting the United Kingdom because of his white supremacist views, tweeted “Is it not okay to be proudly White?”
Jason Kessler was the main organizer of August’s Unite the Right white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which led to widespread violence and the deaths of counter-protestor Heather Heyer and two state troopers who were killed in a helicopter crash while assisting with security. After losing his checkmark, Kessler posted the notification he says Twitter sent him, claiming that the company “changed their verification policy just to be able to censor me.”
Other users who lost verified status include Laura Loomer and Tommy Robinson. Loomer was banned from Uber and Lyft earlier this month after tweeting a rant calling for a “non Islamic form of Uber or Lyft.” Loomer also claimed that Twitter is making her account harder to find and said the platform is “trying to eradicate my presence. Just like Hitler.”
Robinson, the founder of British far-right protest group English Defence League, also tweeted a copy of the notification he says he received from Twitter.