Twitter on Thursday suspended its verification process following widespread backlash for giving the known blue-and-white badge to the account of a noted white supremacist.
The social media company was criticized after Jason Kessler, who organized the Unite the Right rally that sparked violence in the US town of Charlottesville in August, tweeted on Wednesday to confirm he had been verified by the platform.
Twitter’s official support account confirmed that its verification system had been “paused” following the backlash.
“Verification was meant to authenticate identity and voice but it is interpreted as an endorsement or an indicator of importance,” the company tweeted.
“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.”
Commenting on the crises, Jack Dorsey the chief executive of Twitter said, , “We should have communicated faster on this: 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.”
Account holders seeking a blue tick to authenticate their account and indicate it is in the public interest had to submit an online form that included an email address, phone number and website link and a biography that specified “an area of expertise and/or a company mission”.
The Twitter’s verification system has become a status symbol over the years, in part because the group of verified users on Twitter is a very small portion of the overall user base. While the literal meaning of a check mark was about verifying identity, having a check mark has also evolved into a pseudo endorsement from the company — a confirmation that Twitter valued someone as important.
This can be attributed to why people got upset on Wednesday when Twitter verified Kessler, a move that, in the minds of many, legitimized a white supremacist.
It’s unclear what the solution is. Twitter’s user guidelines allow for anonymous accounts, and anonymous users have been a big part of Twitter’s identity and culture since the company’s founding. (Facebook, for comparison, requires users to use their “authentic name” on the social network.)
Twitter’s verification issues are the latest in a string of policy-related decisions that have created animosity with its users. First was Twitter’s controversial decision to temporarily suspend actress Rose McGowan from the service for tweeting about her alleged sexual assault, and then its retroactive decision to ban Russian news outlet RT from advertising on the service only after it was made public that RT may have been involved in trying to influence last year’s U.S. presidential election.