Twitter has begun taking away blue verification badges from controversial white nationalists and some other figures linked to the alt-right in compliance with new policies it announced on Wednesday, Nov. 15.
Among the accounts stripped off their badges are white supremacist Jason Kessler, who organized the infamous Charlottesville rally; Richard Spencer, another white supremacist; Baked Alaska, a known alt-right troll; and right-wing activist Laura Loomer, banned from ride-hailing services earlier this month after posting anti-Muslim rants on Twitter.
Verified Twitter Users, Beware
"Twitter reserves the right to remove verification at any time without notice," reads the site's policies.
According to Twitter's new policies, if a verified account promotes violence or encourages other users to incite violent acts on people based purely on their race, sexual orientation, or other qualities that make them a minority, they may lose their verification.
"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."
Twitter Outs New Policies On Verification
In a series of tweets explaining the policy change, Twitter said that it's "conducting an initial review of verified accounts and will remove verification from accounts" who are found violating the new guidelines.
Twitter's new policies arrive a week after Kessler's account was verified, which was met with widespread outrage. Twitter has since apologized for what happened.
It's still unclear exactly what Twitter verification entails, though. Users gifted with the blue badge are usually perceived as legitimate accounts, meaning Twitter has contacted or confirmed the identity of the account holder, but some badges are reserved for high-profile accounts, such as the president's, which ostensibly enables certain features non-badge holders aren't entitled to.
Blue badges are seen nowadays as a form of endorsement, as Twitter explains.
"Verification has long been perceived as an endorsement," the site said. "This perception became worse when we opened up verification for public submissions and verified people who we in no way endorse."
Twitter's purge of verified accounts is a commendable effort to protect its site from violence and hate speech, but this has inherent risks too. For starters, Twitter might start removing badges if it finds an account's political stance disagreeable — regardless if they were promoting violence or not. Such actions would not only spring nasty debates around free speech but could also cause ugly Twitter wars.
In January, Twitter revoked a Breitbart staffer's verification badge as a response to hate and harassment campaigns, which started the confusion around what having a verified badge really meant. Now, it's pretty clear.