For those who dream of having a little blue tick next to their Twitter handle, those dreams were scuppered when Twitter announced it was suspending its verification services.
This was reportedly after the company verified Jason Kessler, the white supremacist who organised the Charlottesville rally, where social justice activist Heather Heyer was killed.
This is what Twitter said in response:
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
Since then, the social media has decided to unverify several other far-right figures on the platform, those who had already received this so-called endorsement from Twitter.
One of the first people to realise this had happened was the journalist Laura Loomer. She tweeted saying that Twitter informed her it was removing the verified badge because:
They claim my account doesn’t comply with Twitter’s guidelines for verified accounts. Translation: I’m a conservative.
Who else has lost their Twitter verification?
Other far-right figures have lost their verified status.
Jason Kessler has had his revoked. Richard Spencer, president of the white supremacist think tank National Policy Institute who coined the term alt-right, has also had his removed.
Another white nationalist, Tim Gionet who goes by the name of Baked Alaska has been permanently banned from the platform.
In the UK, Tommy Robinson, the far-right leader of the English Defence League, is also no longer verified.
Why has Twitter done this?
The company has said it’s looking to work on a new authentication and verification program and it will be removing verification from accounts “whose behaviour does not fall within these new guidelines”.
It lists several reasons as to why an account might lose verified status. This includes: “promoting hate and/or violence against, or directly attacking or threatening other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease.”
It looks like Twitter might be clamping down on the white nationalists on its platform to make it appear more palatable. It is regularly criticised for not doing enough to remove bots and trolls.
In addition, at a digital news summit in London recently, a content partnership manager for Twitter France, Jerome Tomasini declared Twitter was a “news platform”.
We are the news platform, we are where you want to go when you want to know what’s happening.
By removing verification of far-right accounts, it appears that Twitter is making an editorial decision to not publicise these voices. As well as making an ethical one.
However, this won’t do much to satisfy the critics. Expect to see people saying the platform is silencing voices and not promoting free speech.
Twitter can’t win really.