Twitter lambasted for verifying white supremacist’s account
Twitter has waded deeper still into cultural controversy by verifying Jason Kessler's account on Tuesday afternoon. A notorious white supremacist, it was Kessler who organized the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this year.
The backlash since Tuesday has been intense, forcing the social media giant to halt its entire general verification program according to CEO Jack Dorsey. The original verification process was designed to authenticate the profiles of celebrities, politicians, journalists and other people who were ostensibly of public interest.
The blue verification badge aimed to eliminate confusion and misunderstandings, when bot or troll accounts tweeted controversial statements on their behalf. For instance, journalists use their company email accounts when applying to be verified, to prove they work for a media outlet. However the process was relaxed recently as verification was opened up to more users, a move which is understood to have led to this latest development.
We should’ve communicated faster on this (yesterday): our agents have been following our verification policy correctly, but we realized some time ago the system is broken and needs to be reconsidered. And we failed by not doing anything about it. Working now to fix faster. https://t.co/wVbfYJntHj— jack (@jack) November 9, 2017
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
Kessler is the man who described the woman who was killed at the Unite the Right march, Heather Heyer, as a “fat disgusting Communist,” before adding that it was right to troll her posthumously.
It was right to troll Heather Heyer. I media was depicting a marty, not a human being. Iconoclasm serves a purpose.— Jason Kessler (@TheMadDimension) September 18, 2017
He was later physically attacked when he tried to give a speech following the car attack in Charlottesville.
Kessler capitalized on the outrage over his verification, taking advantage of the increased attention to stoke the flames of racial division even further.
Is it okay to be white?— Jason Kessler (@TheMadDimension) November 8, 2017
Twitter was quickly put to the sword by some of its more influential users for perceived hypocrisy and hand-wringing in the face of a clearly problematic verification process.
Hi @Twitter,Hope you realize there's no such thing as being neutral when it comes to Nazis. Verifying Jason Kessler is a political act -- and one that puts you on the wrong side of history. https://t.co/VlvDaMwQO3— Simran Jeet Singh (@SikhProf) November 9, 2017
The social media site has been accused of courting controversial figures before, drawing ire from its general user base as a result. Notorious troll Milo Yiannopoulos eventually had his account deactivated in July after a litany of alleged abuses.
You verified Richard Spencer— Ladies Jacket Club (@subtlerbutler) November 9, 2017
“It’s recognition. It’s a simple as that,” Richard Spencer, a white supremacist verified by Twitter in 2016, said in an interview, as cited by The New York Times. “The blue checkmark is useful.”
Twitter temporarily removed the blue check from outspoken conservative activist Laura Loomer for alleged Islamophobia… before backtracking.
Twitter told me if I thought their email was an error I could reply to them and tell them why. I didn't make any threats. Islam and Muslim are not a race, so my tweets are not racist. And, I didn't incite violence. So, what's the problem? Here is my reply to twitter. pic.twitter.com/TET53Xxooi— Laura Loomer (@LauraLoomer) November 9, 2017
Even US President Donald Trump’s supposed abuse of the social media platform’s terms of service has been tacitly allowed, much to the chagrin of his opponents both at home and abroad.
Twitter also suspended actor Rose McGowan’s account for a brief period after she came forward with allegations of sexual harassment against Harvey Weinstein. A hashtag campaign swiftly saw her reinstated, but added yet another faux pas to Twitter’s list of recent transgressions among the online online community.
We have been in touch with Ms. McGowan's team. We want to explain that her account was temporarily locked because one of her Tweets included a private phone number, which violates our Terms of Service. 1/3— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) October 12, 2017
either twitter HQ is filled with the most oblivious people alive or some of them actively sympathize with Nazis. Which is it, Jack? Why is Spencer verified?— Jules N. Binoculars hang from the head of the mule (@surfbordt) November 9, 2017
I'm gonna bet it's the latter - tech world is rife with fascist male douchebaggery. See also Damore, James.— Nandini (@nandelabra) November 9, 2017
Of course, I'm an award-winning Jewish journalist, and didn't start a White Nationalist riot that got someone killed, so I can see how I was overlooked.— Max Sparber Jeez There Are a Lot of Nazis on Twitt (@maxsparber) November 9, 2017
Yeah, but it’s interesting who you choose to verify. I’ve been turned down three times.— Erin Maher🍳 (@theerinmaher) November 9, 2017
Others defended the decision to verify Kessler’s account, among other controversial figures, by citing the right to free speech and the importance of allowing people to express their beliefs, however distasteful, to generate debate in the free market of ideas online.
And? You may not like him, I may not like him, it doesn't mean that he shouldn't be verified. You can't say that he's not influential or important.— Inky (@1nkybinky) November 9, 2017
That's not how any of this works. Let those you disagree with speak, so that you know you disagree with them and can more readily convince others of their "wrongness" - that's how free speech works. #1A— TJ (@trejrco) November 9, 2017
Yes, why don't people in this country understand what the 1st amendment is all about ! pic.twitter.com/WhPJVksst7— Vikky Davidson (@VikkyDavidson) November 9, 2017
The social media giant has faced a series of high profile issues in recent weeks. Just last Thursday (Nov 2) an exiting employee deactivated US President Donald Trump's Twitter account, a key tool in his public relations machine. However, it’s worth noting that Twitter has recently doubled its character limit to 280, affording people the ability to express themselves in longer, less-truncated diatribes than ever before.