Twitter, Facing Another Uproar, Pauses Its Verification Process


Jason Kessler, a prominent white nationalist, at the march in Charlottesville, Va., in October. Twitter’s decision to verify his account prompted angry responses.

Edu Bayer for The New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO — On Tuesday afternoon, Twitter added a small blue check mark to the account of Jason Kessler, a move known as verification that indicates a prominent person’s real account.

The action was quickly met with outrage. That’s because Mr. Kessler is a well-known white supremacist who has used Twitter to spread his message and organize rallies like Unite the Right’s march in Charlottesville, Va., where torch-wielding protesters marched through the streets chanting racist rallying cries.

Across the Twitterverse, people including the comedian Michael Ian Black came down on the company.

By Thursday morning, Twitter announced it would be halting its entire general verification program. It was yet another situation that the company has had to make amends on, just a week after the accidental deletion of President Trump’s Twitter account and testimony in Washington on how Russian agents used its service last year to sow discord.

“The system is broken and needs to be reconsidered,” Twitter’s chief executive, Jack Dorsey, tweeted on Thursday. “And we failed by not doing anything about it. Working now to fix faster.”

When Twitter puts a verified check mark next to a white nationalist’s name, is the company endorsing that person? That was what Twitter was trying to figure out on Thursday.

“Verification was meant to authenticate identity and voice but it is interpreted as an endorsement or importance,” the company said on Twitter. “We have created this confusion.”

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