Updated Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017, 3:13 p.m. EST: Both Twitter Support and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey have responded to the controversy surrounding Jason Kessler’s account being verified by Twitter.
On Thursday, the official Twitter Support account responded with the following: “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.”
First of all, Anil Dash already said that Wednesday night. It looks as if all Twitter did was take Dash’s tweet, reword it and send it out to make it look as if the platform has had some deep and profound epiphany. It hasn’t.
“Also verification is still deliberately being used to conflate ‘this person is who they say they are’ with ‘this person has higher status,’” Dash wrote.
And that is the key. Twitter has used the verification system as described purposely. There’s a reason people—folks with legitimate reasons to be verified—have to go through hell and high water to get that blue check mark. Twitter has wielded verification like a weapon and held it over people’s heads as something they should aspire to or go to great lengths to achieve. This has been purposeful and intentional, and everyone knows it.
So when Twitter then tries to come back and act as if it is just realizing this is a problem, it is disingenuous at best, and a purposeful deflection from the real issue at worst.
The fact remains that, verified or not, Jason Kessler should not have an account at all, considering the Confederate-flag (hate symbol) imagery in his header, but I’ll come back to that.
Jack Dorsey added on to the Twitter Support tweet and said, “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.”
Yes, the verification system is “broken.” And yes, it needs to be fixed, but there is a greater issue here.
You promised us weeks ago that the platform was going to take a more aggressive stance against hate.
This is not just about Jason Kessler being verified. This is about Jason Kessler having an account that is clearly violating the rules that you claimed were going to be enforced more strictly, and about that account going through a verification process that actually puts human eyes at your company on his account—and those human eyes saying, “Yes, let’s elevate his platform with this blue checkmark.”
Your company admittedly created this verification pecking order, and your company has done everything to keep it in place.
It does not go unnoticed that your responses Thursday come after many, many people retweeted my post and my tweet thread and added you to the thread to draw your attention to it.
You were able to easily ignore the pieces written by other outlets, but you could not ignore mine because it got a lot of traction on social media, and your hand was forced.
So you come out with this fake-ass “mea culpa,” and we are all supposed to applaud your supposed epiphany, but here’s the thing: You guys say this about everything you get called out on. You said it on Oct. 13 when you got called out on the harassment-and-abuse issue. Your promised big changes.
Nothing has changed. It’s business as usual on Twitter.
You guys pussyfoot around every single issue that is brought to your attention, pretend to be contrite, then ultimately do nothing. This is the Twitter way.
The other day, I called your attention to someone who was harassing me on Twitter. I blocked the original account from which the person tweeted to me, and the person used a second account to continue the harassment. This is something I brought up in the post I wrote about the harassment problem.
I openly asked for your help, and you ignored that call to duty.
You couldn’t ignore this one, though.
And you won’t be able to ignore any further callouts because this is real.
You have created a monster, and it is time for you to either tame the beast or slay it altogether.
Your move, my guy.
I’ve decided it’s going to be my personal and public crusade to air out Twitter every time it does something that runs counter to what it claims to be about. The platform’s made a big deal recently about how much stricter it’s going to be about enforcing its rules of terms of service, and we’ve all seen Twitter do everything but that. This latest example is no exception.
One of the “new” rules Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey outlined in his Oct. 13 tweet thread was a more aggressive stance against “hate symbols” and “violent groups.” How is it, then, that Twitter verified the account of the white nationalist who organized the rally in Charlottesville, Va.—especially when said white nationalist has as his header photo the No. 1 image associated with white racism and hate: the Confederate flag?
Jason Kessler tweets under the handle @TheMadDimension. His bio says he is a freelance writer who has written for GotNews, Daily Caller and VDARE. He also identifies himself as the organizer of the Unite the Right rally, aka the Charlottesville riot that ended with the death of Heather Heyer, a counterprotester who was killed when one of Kessler’s many followers plowed a vehicle into a crowd of people who had beliefs that differed from his own.
Kessler bragged on Twitter on Tuesday that his account had “finally” been verified, which indicates that he applied for the privilege, and someone at Twitter reviewed his account and his credentials and determined that, yes, he should be given the credibility of a blue check mark by his name.
“Looks like I FINALLY got verified by Twitter,” Kessler wrote. “I must be the only working class white advocate with that distinction.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center lists Kessler as an “extremist” with a white nationalist ideology; he is included on the SPLC Hatewatch website.
According to SPLC, Kessler attempted to unseat Charlottesville’s only black city councilman—Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy—and served as a bridge between a Virginia gubernatorial candidate and the “alt-right.” He is described as “relying on the familiar tropes of ‘white genocide’ and ‘demographic displacement.’”
Here is an especially interesting tidbit from SPLC’s dossier on Kessler:
Rumors abound on white nationalist forums that Kessler’s ideological pedigree before 2016 was less than pure and seem to point to involvement in the Occupy movement and past support for President Obama.
At one recent speech in favor of Charlottesville’s status as a sanctuary city, Kessler live-streamed himself as an attendee questioned him and apologized for an undisclosed spat during Kessler’s apparent involvement with Occupy. Kessler appeared visibly perturbed by the woman’s presence and reminders of their past association.
Kessler claims that he was radicalized after public relations exec Justine Sacco was fired for making an extremely tasteless and racist joke about AIDS in Africa in late 2013. (Sidenote: Remember the #HasJustineLandedYet hashtag? Good. Fucking. Times. That was really the golden age of Twitter, I swear.)
Kessler said of the Sacco incident, “ ... so it was a little racist joke, nothing that big of a deal, she didn’t have that many followers, she probably didn’t think anybody was going to see it.”
In December 2016, Kessler wrote a post titled, “The End of Identity Politics: To Ensure Peace, Prepare for War,” in which he said:
But make no mistake, the age of innocence is over for whites politically. We are becoming a displaced minority in our own country thanks to Democrat policies. They tax the hell out of middle class families who might want to have more children while paying for welfare queens to have 5 or 6 babies they can’t support. They provide sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants who flood in from south of the border and import Islamists from the most dangerous countries on Earth. The time for supplication is over. We need to fight back!
Twitter just validated everything this man has to say by giving him that blue check mark after his name.
But Twitter is taking a more aggressive stance against hate and violence, right?
Twitter is directly enabling white supremacy and white nationalist ideology.
Twitter is full of shit.