Blue ticks fall as Tommy Robinson and others lose verified status on Twitter
The social media site acted following criticism of the number of far-right figures who are verified on the platform.
Twitter has removed blue ticks from a string of controversial users following criticism of the number of far-right figures who are verified on the platform.
English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson and American white nationalist Richard Spencer were among those to lose their blue tick, a symbol which was introduced as a way to confirm that the accounts of prominent people were genuine.
2 / Verification has long been perceived as an endorsement. We gave verified accounts visual prominence on the service which deepened this perception. We should have addressed this earlier but did not prioritize the work as we should have.— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) November 15, 2017
In July last year, Twitter made it easier for anyone to apply for verified status by providing a verified email address, phone number, photo and other information. This increased the number of verified users, including those espousing far-right views.
Twitter halted all new general verification of users on November 9 in response to a backlash over the verification of Jason Kessler, the US far-right figure who organised the Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville in August, at which counter-protester Heather Heyer was killed.
On Wednesday, Twitter went further, actively stripping a number of users of their blue tick status, saying it would remove verification from accounts that do not meet new guidelines.
5 / We are conducting an initial review of verified accounts and will remove verification from accounts whose behavior does not fall within these new guidelines. We will continue to review and take action as we work towards a new program we are proud of.— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) November 15, 2017
These include a ban on promoting hate or threatening people on the basis of “race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability or disease”.
Supporting organisations or individuals that promote theses type of hatred are also at risk of losing verified status.
In response to his de-verification, Robinson referenced figures who had been the subject of public outcry of late, but who had not been stripped of the blue tick.
Spencer doubled down on his views.
Verified no more! Is it not okay to be proudly White? 🤷🏻♂️— Richard 🇮🇹 Spencer (@RichardBSpencer) November 15, 2017
Some users criticised the change in policy, saying it is placing moral judgment in the hands of a few employees of the service and that the rules are confusing.
Verification should serve as an indicator of authenticity, not a gold sticker for good/popular behavior (as determined by Twitter employees in San Francisco) across the entire internet.— Palmer Luckey (@PalmerLuckey) November 16, 2017
Twitter: We’ve made the process of verification too confusing.— David Chen (@davechensky) November 16, 2017
Also Twitter: Okay now we’re going to start unverifying people who express opinions we find objectionable.
Others celebrated the removal of verification for far-right users.