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Twitter Pauses Verifications After Backlash Over Verifying Far-Right Extremist

Twitter outage
Richard Drew/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Following a severe backlash over the verification of a far-right extremist who organized the recent Neo-Nazi March in Charlottesville, Twitter announced on Thursday that it was suspending its verification program until further notice. “Verification was meant to authenticate identity & voice but it is interpreted as an endorsement or an indicator of importance,” the company said in a tweet. “We recognize that we have created this confusion and need to resolve it.”

The most recent controversy surrounding Twitter’s treatment of members of the far-right started when the company verified the account of Jason Kessler, a white nationalist who organized August’s “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville.

That rally ended with a far-right protester running a counter-protester over with his car, killing her in the process. Kessler subsequently took to Twitter to call the killing “payback time” and disparage the victim — something he later blamed on tweeting under the influence.

Twitter introduced verified accounts a few years ago as a way to tell apart the accounts of celebrities and other well-known users from parodies. The company initially only verified select users, but opened up an application process for verification a little over a year ago. On Tuesday, Kessler was one of the latest users to receive the blue check mark — which he promptly celebrated.

Kessler verification tweet

On Thursday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey chimed in on the controversy as well, acknowledging that the company had known about problems with its verification system for some time. “Our agents have been following our verification policy correctly, but we realized some time ago the system is broken and needs to be reconsidered,” he wrote in a tweet. “And we failed by not doing anything about it. Working now to fix faster.”