Two days after giving a blue check to a prominent white nationalist who organized the deadly Charlottesville rally, Twitter on Thursday announced it’s reevaluating how users get those “verification” marks.
Getting the coveted blue check mark next to your Twitter handle has long been a sign that you either know someone who works for Twitter, you’re a celebrity, or you post a lot online, though the social media giant has for years declined to give many details on the verification process.
But on Tuesday, Twitter faced bitter backlash when it verified white supremacist Jason Kessler. A well-known white supremacist and the organizer of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in August, Kessler tweeted that the death of counterprotester Heather Heyer at the hands of a white nationalist was “payback time.”
The company announced in a 280-character tweet that it would pause “all general verifications” and reevaluate how users get blue check marks.
In the past, Twitter has taken away blue check marks as a punishment, as it did with Milo Yiannopoulos in January 2016 before permanently suspending the alt-right icon a few months later from the social network. Other controversial, high-profile users, like Julian Assange, have whined for ages that Twitter refuses to verify them. And other well-known white supremacists, such as Richard Spencer, have been verified for roughly a year now.
Twitter has approached verification inconsistently ever since it launched in 2009, and it has been similarly erratic when it comes to hate speech. Just last month, CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted that the company had finally “decided to take a more aggressive stance in our rules and how we enforce them,” when it came to “unwanted sexual advances, non-consensual nudity, hate symbols, violent groups, and tweets that glorify violence.”
On the August day that Kessler tweeted Heather Heyer’s death was “payback,” he called Heyer in the same post a “fat, disgusting Communist.” Police have since arrested multiple white nationalists for assaults committed at the Charlottesville rally that Kessler put together.