Twitter strips Tommy Robinson & other far-right users of coveted blue tick
Twitter announced new guidelines for blue ticks, saying users can lose their status if they “promote hate,” harass or threaten people based on “race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability [or] disease.” The rules apply to behavior “on and off” Twitter, meaning users can lose their verification even if they do not violate its rules directly.
On Wednesday night, Twitter withdrew the verification of some accounts, which have been linked to white supremacy and the far right. They included Robinson, American white-supremacist Richard Spencer, and Jason Kessler, who organized a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville.
Robinson responded to being de-verified by saying “the truth is now hate speech,” and mocked that being de-verified has “triggered” him. He then tweeted that he was being censored: “Quisling elite censor us because they know they can’t refute us. When we published #MohammedsKoran [Robinson’s book Mohammed's Koran: Why Muslims Kill For Islam] we expected the censorship to increase cos they can’t refute the 20th century experts on Islam.”
The truth is now hate speech pic.twitter.com/LHHFgdD05P— Tommy Robinson 🇬🇧 (@TRobinsonNewEra) November 15, 2017
Quisling elite censor us because they know they can't refute us. When we published #MohammedsKoran we expected the censorship to increase cos they can't refute the 20th century experts on Islam, whose works expose The Grand Lie: Islam is Peace— Tommy Robinson 🇬🇧 (@TRobinsonNewEra) November 16, 2017
He went on to claim that multiple steps had been taken to keep his book hidden. “Muslims created a fake version, Amazon de-listed it as a Koran, Google won’t take Ads, Police State stopped launch events in Manchester & Newcastle. What next: public burning? It’s book, refute it,” he tweeted.
Some of those who had their verified badge removed said the new policy was being applied inconsistently, highlighting other accounts of disgraced celebrities who had not lost the icon.
Other Twitter users criticized the change in policy, saying it is placing moral judgment in the hands of a few employees of the service.
Twitter: We’ve made the process of verification too confusing.— David Chen (@davechensky) November 16, 2017
Also Twitter: Okay now we’re going to start unverifying people who express opinions we find objectionable.
Whoever advised Twitter to turn verification into an approbation of views rather than a confirmation of identity did not think this through. Now Twitter can be held accountable for every controversial thing said by a blue checkmark.— (((Yair Rosenberg))) (@Yair_Rosenberg) November 16, 2017
"In short: if users don't prescribe to certain Twitter guidelines, **even on public sites other than Twitter**, they can kiss their blue check marks goodbye."https://t.co/qTbCBnb1a8— Palmer Luckey (@PalmerLuckey) November 16, 2017
Others celebrated the removal of verification for far-right users.
Twitter pulling the verification badges of Nazis is possibly the best thing Twitter has ever done for its users👏👏👏— Heidi N Moore (@moorehn) November 16, 2017
Twitter should give little pointy white hats and masks to all the far-right accounts whining about losing their blue tick. 😏— Danté Banks (@Dante_Banks) November 16, 2017
Twitter has officially verified the accounts of politicians, celebrities and other public figures since 2009. In July 2016, it opened up the scheme to the wider public and allowed anybody to apply for a verified badge. The mark was meant to confirm authenticity, but it has since been seen as a badge of honor.
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
Last week, Twitter came under fire for verifying Kessler’s account, and soon after halted its verified profile scheme. It said it had not intended the blue badge to be an endorsement of views shared.
Twitter tweeted on Wednesday: “We are conducting an initial review of verified accounts and will remove verification from accounts whose behavior does not fall within these new guidelines. We will continue to review and take action as we work towards a new program we are proud of.” It admitted that the verification had “long been perceived as an endorsement” and said it “should have addressed this earlier.”