- The Washington Times - Friday, November 10, 2017

Twitter said its evaluating how it authenticates its users after the company caused an uproar for awarding a blue “verified” check mark to Jason Kessler, the white nationalist who organized the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The company ignited a firestorm upon verifying Mr. Kessler’s Twitter account on Tuesday this week, seemingly endorsing the presence of a widely panned racist on its platform by placing him in a category reserved for accounts “of public interest.”

The blowback triggered a response from Twitter on Thursday that effectively put a hold on its process of verifying users.

“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 said.

Jack Dorsey, the company CEO and co-founder, tweeted from his personal account moments later conceding flaws with Twitter’s system, admitting: “our agents have been following our verification policy correctly, but we realized some time ago the system is broken and needs to be reconsidered.”

Twitter began applying blue check marks to accounts of interest in 2009, and last year it began accepting requests from non-celebrity users asking to be verified. Today the platform boasts about 330 million monthly active users, including at least 287,000 who’ve been verified, according to a Twitter account that automatically follows users after they’ve received blue check marks.

“An account may be verified if it is determined to be an account of public interest,” according to Twitter. “Typically this includes accounts maintained by users in music, acting, fashion, government, politics, religion, journalism, media, sports, business and other key interest areas.”

“A verified badge does not imply an endorsement by Twitter,” the company says.

Mr. Kessler’s verification nonetheless made waves this week, particularly in light of Twitter taking heat in the past from critics who’ve accused the company of catering to neo-Nazis and other racists.

Mr. Kessler, 34, organized the infamous August 12 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville that police linked to the death of a woman killed while protesting the event, Heather Heyer. A week later he used his Twitter account to call Heyer a “fat, disgusting Communist” whose death he described as “payback time.”

“Looks like I FINALLY got verified by Twitter,” he tweeted to his roughly 14,000 followers Tuesday. “I must be the only working class white advocate with that distinction.”

Twitter has been frequently criticized in the past for not doing enough to keep its platform free of hate speech. Earlier this month the company began banning groups that use violence to advance their causes, and on November 22 it’s slated to implement new policies banning “hateful imagery and hate symbols,” according to Mr. Dorsey.

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