Twitter has long received criticism for its treatment of white nationalists and issues with online harassment. On Nov. 9, Twitter paused its verification process after users complained en masse about the site giving white nationalist Jason Kessler one of its coveted blue check marks. A statement from the @TwitterSupport account issued last week said the company never meant verification to serve as an endorsement, but they recognized "that we have created this confusion and need to resolve it." In an update thread from Nov. 15, Twitter added, "We're working on a new authentication and verification program. In the meantime, we are not accepting any public submissions for verification and have introduced new guidelines for the program."
But that wasn't all they did On Nov. 15, Twitter un-verified white nationalists after updating their verification policy, and the responses have been glorious. Being verified on Twitter is a big deal! I haven't (yet) been able to convince the site to verify me, so it's pretty upsetting to see self-described white nationalists receiving that blue check mark. But the Internet didn't have much pity for any of the white nationalists who lost their verification status.
White nationalist Richard Spencer tweeted, "Verified no more! Is it not okay to be proudly White?" Journalist Soledad O'Brien responded to Spencer's complaints about being unverified, tweeting he should "just stop being a white supremacist and a disgusting human being."
Twitter has long insisted that verification did not serve as an endorsement, but the rule change seems to show that the site recognizes that verified accounts are viewed as more legitimate than un-verified accounts. Twitter's updated policy guidelines, which they shared in a tweet Nov. 15, include a list of reasons you can lose your verification status. The second rule on their list is likely why white nationalists are now un-verified: hate speech now breaks verification rules.
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. Supporting organizations or individuals that promote the above.
Removing verification is a simple move on Twitter's part, but the response shows just how significant it is. Although verification is theoretically only there to confirm someone's identity, it's a coveted status symbol on the website.
Spencer wasn't the only one who felt the impact of Twitter's rule change. Laura Loomer, a far-right political activist who once tweeted she wanted someone to "create a non Islamic form of Uber or Lyft because I never want to support another Islamic immigrant driver," also lost her blue check mark. (She's also banned from both Uber and Lyft.) Loomer has tweeted about losing verification roughly 25 times in the 16 hours since it happened. She has compared her situation to the Holocaust and accused Twitter of "literally trying to eradicate" her presence "just like Hitler." She doubled down in a follow-up tweet, saying it "sounds like twitter is carrying out its own 'final solution' for conservatives."
Unsurprisingly, Twitter didn't respond well to Loomer's complaints. Chrissy Teigen even replied to one of Loomer's tweets with her opinion.
Loomer also complained she was banned for being conservative.
The accounts that are now unverified have long shared offensive memes and tweets, and Twitter seems to be taking user complaints about them seriously. The platform was first touted as a place where free speech reigned, but Twitter is realizing the consequences of allowing hate speech to go unchecked. Users have begged the social media site to ban neo-Nazis, and it looks like Twitter may finally be making changes. It's too soon to tell what impacts this will have on the site in the long run, but people are happy that Twitter is finally listening.