Twitter Stops Verification Requests After Kessler Backlash

Counter protesters confront Jason Kessler, an organizer of "Unite the Right" rally, after Kessler tried to speak outside the Charlottesville City Hall on August 13, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Getty Images

Twitter said Thursday that it will "pause" its verified account system in the wake of criticism over an organizer of the Charlottesville rally having received a coveted blue check mark on his profile.

Jason Kessler, a white nationalist who has taken credit for organizing the "United the Right" rally that led to the death of a counterprotester, promoted his new Twitter verification on Tuesday. His profile features a confederate flag and notes that he has written for far-right websites.

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Kessler was charged with a felony perjury charge just last month for allegedly lying to a judge that he was not the aggressor when a man was assaulted earlier this year.

Back in August, Kessler used Twitter to insult Heather Heyer, the women who was killed while protesting at the Charlottesville rally. He had called her “fat” and a “disgusting communist,” and said that her death was “payback time.” He later claimed he was hacked, then blamed prescription drugs and alcohol as the reason behind the tweet. He briefly deleted his account.

The move to verify Kessler’s account comes after Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, had recently said the service was planning to toughen rules on hate speech then take on its verification policy.

“Not as high a priority as enforcement, but it’s up there,” he said last month, Bloomberg reported.

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Twitter explains on its website that verification is for accounts in the "public interest" and "a verified badge does not imply an endorsement."

But the verified account of a white supremacist caused an outburst from Twitter users against Kessler.

Some users claimed Dorsey was a “Nazi” supporter for allowing Kessler’s account to be verified.

"Verification was meant to authenticate identity & voice but it is interpreted as an endorsement or an indicator of importance," Twitter's support account said in response. "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."

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Dorsey retweeted the message and assured he was working to fix the problem.

"We should’ve communicated faster on this," he said, acknowledging that the "system is broken."

Twitter also faced criticism over its policies last month when actress Rose McGowan was briefly unable to post on the service after a tweet about sexual harassment included a private phone number.