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Twitter gets tough on white supremacists with new policy

Verified user badges are not an endorsement and and you can't be sure they'll always be there

Endorsements for white supremacists Richard Spencer and Charlottesville “Unite The Right” protest creator Jason Kessler?

Umm, no, just because we verified that they are who they say they are doesn’t mean we like what they’re putting out there, or that they’re following community standards, @TwitterSupport said in a Tweet string on Wednesday… and then revoked those verified statuses and banned some accounts.

As The Daily Beast reports, it turns out that Twitter had actually changed its policy on the verified badges last week.

According to the new policy, users can now lose the blue verified badge for “inciting or engaging in harassment of others,” “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 people who promote those ideas, and other reasons.

The new policy came a day after the Daily Beast ran a story about how Kessler – who had called the death of anti-racist protester Heather Heyer in Charlottesville “payback time” – had been verified by Twitter.

Sorry, CEO Jack Dorsey wrote last Thursday; we should have done this sooner:

Twitter on Wednesday claimed responsibility for failing to clear up users’ misperception of what the verified badge is all about:

Verification has long been perceived as an endorsement. 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.

Kessler, Spencer and other far-right conservatives are not pleased.

The banned @BakedAlaska account to which Kessler refers is that of Tim Gionet, a far right former BuzzFeed employee. In his final tweets, Gionet urged his followers to reinstate an account that was banned from Twitter for, he claimed, “saying muslim immigrants are adding to the rape culture.”

They may be who they say they are, but just because you’re verified doesn’t exempt you from complying with Twitter’s community policies, the company says. When the Daily Beast contacted Twitter about Gionet’s suspension, a spokesperson pointed to the company’s hateful conduct policy. Specifically, there’s a section that bans “repeated and/or or non-consensual slurs, epithets, racist and sexist tropes, or other content that degrades someone.”

Mind you, this isn’t the first time that Twitter has stripped the badge for what it sees as egregious content: far-right writer Milo Yiannopoulos lost his and was permanently banned when Twitter cracked down on a wave of racist abuse targeting the Saturday Night Live comedian and “Ghostbusters” actor Leslie Jones.

Twitter first introduced the verified checkmark – a little blue “verified” badge with a white tick in the center to denote “that an account of public interest is authentic,” as opposed to, say, all the fake celebrity accounts that have duped individuals, newspapers as big as the New York Times, and politicians.


How serious of a problem was this? That many people thought that the check mark was an endorsement?


I think it was very common judging by how excited people became when the verification program opened up from being ‘invite only’ to being there for anyone to apply for.
Many people saw it as a way to spot a ‘famous person’ or a ‘celebrity’ and that by default a famous person or celebrity had more impact when they spoke.
Also there were rumours (almost certainly false) that Verified accounts showed higher in the tweet stream when Twitter tested algorithms, and verified accounts did start to show higher in searches.


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