Well, wail, (fail) whale. A week after being put on blast for verifying the account of white nationalist Jason Kessler—the organizer of the tiki-torch white supremacist rally—Twitter has reversed its decision and removed the check mark from his account, along with that of Richard Spencer, and made several changes to its verification policy in the process.
Twitter announced the updates to its verification system Wednesday afternoon in a series of tweets from its Twitter Support account.
“Verification has long been perceived as an endorsement,” the company said. “We gave verified accounts visual prominence on the service which deepened this perception. We should have addressed this earlier but did not prioritize the work as we should have.”
First of all, y’all did that on purpose.
Let’s not forget that when Twitter introduced the verification application system in July 2016, its vice president of User Services, Tina Bhatnagar, said in a press statement: “We want to make it even easier for people to find creators and influencers on Twitter so it makes sense for us to let people apply for verification. We hope opening up this application process results in more people finding great, high-quality accounts to follow, and for these creators and influencers to connect with a broader audience.”
That statement seems to imply that Twitter considered verification some sort of merit badge, but I digress.
“This perception became worse when we opened up verification for public submissions and verified people who we in no way endorse,” the company said. “We’re working on a new authentication and verification program. In the meantime, we are not accepting any public submissions for verification and have introduced new guidelines for the program.”
It continued: “We are conducting an initial review of verified accounts and will remove verification from accounts whose behavior does not fall within these guidelines. We will continue to review and take action as we work towards a new program we are proud of.”
The company wasted no time enforcing its new policies. It removed the verification badges from Kessler and Spencer and suspended the account of known “alt-right” troll account Baked Alaska.
Other accounts that had their verification badges removed objected loudly on the timeline.
Twitter taking action is a good thing, but removing verification badges seems questionable at this point. The company appears to be notifying the accounts as to why their badges are being removed.
From the support page:
Twitter reserves the right to remove verification at any time without notice.
Reasons for removal may reflect behaviors on and off Twitter that include:
* Intentionally misleading people on Twitter by changing one’s display name or bio.
* 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.
* Supporting organizations or individuals that promote the above.
* Inciting or engaging in harassment of others.
* Violence and dangerous behavior
* Directly or indirectly threatening or encouraging any form of physical violence against an individual or any group of people, including threatening or promoting terrorism
* Violent, gruesome, shocking, or disturbing imagery
* Self-harm, suicide
* Engaging in activity on Twitter that violates the Twitter Rules.
So one of our favorite Twitter games, clever display names, is now going to be used as a tool to remove verification badges.