Twitter speaks out after de-verifying abusive accounts

The social platform removed the blue badge from accounts that it says violated its guidelines. Others claim the move is politically motivated.

Twitter is attempting to rewrite its story.

In a move intended to combat hate speech and aggressive behaviors on its social media platform, the company de-verified several accounts last night and has announced updated guidelines for the verification program.

This comes after the company was embroiled in controversy after it verified the account of white supremacist Jason Kessler.

Now the company is taking concrete action to change public perception of its platform.

Twitter’s support account indicated that the company is not done making changes to address the problem and that the move to remove verification is a token of goodwill.

Many have equated verification with approval on Twitter’s part.

The Washington Post wrote:

Verification helps promote the accounts, lending them a sort of semiofficial imprimatur from the company. But Twitter said that they were never meant to be an endorsement. […]

As a private company, Twitter has no legal free-speech obligations to those who use its service. It noted in its new guidelines that it “reserves the right to remove verification at any time without notice.”

The Washington Post noted that this thorny path for Twitter is part of the greater problem for companies grappling with the current political climate and the debate over protected speech happening in America. It wrote:

The move marks the latest skirmish in a debate over speech that has exploded over the past couple of years on social networks such as Twitter and those in the real world, including college campuses and city squares, as extremist figures with racially motivated views have increasingly moved into public view. And it comes as the publicly traded company faces increased pressure to weed out the hateful speech, images and threats that have blossomed on the service in recent years.

On its support page, Twitter outlines the actions that can lead to the loss of verified status, including:

  • Intentionally misleading people on Twitter by changing one’s display name or bio.
  • 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.
  • Inciting or engaging in harassment of others.
  • Violence and dangerous behavior
    • Directly or indirectly threatening or encouraging any form of physical violence against an individual or any group of people, including threatening or promoting terrorism
    • Violent, gruesome, shocking, or disturbing imagery
    • Self-harm, suicide
  • Engaging in activity on Twitter that violates the Twitter Rules.

Some contend Twitter’s problem is not a lack of rules and that introducing these guidelines would do little to fix the platform’s quandary.

Gizmodo wrote:

Given that Twitter’s core problem is not the absence of rules, but the lack of consistency with which it enforces them, verification changes—and the users who are likely to have that status revoked—are likely to bring more headaches for an already embroiled company. Good luck, folks.

Twitter communicated by email to let account holders know their verified status had been revoked.

USA Today wrote:

Twitter started notifying users of that their verification had been removed by email on Wednesday. One of the first accounts to lose its blue checkmark was Laura Loomer, the far-right activist who was recently banned by Uber and Lyft following her complaints about Muslim drivers.

“Twitter just emailed me to tell me they are removing my ‘verified badge’ because they claim my account ‘doesn’t comply with Twitter’s guidelines for verified accounts.’ Translation: I’m a conservative,” Loomer wrote on Twitter.

Some counter that plenty of conservative accounts remain verified on the platform:

Twitter took responsibility for the miscommunication and apologized for not correcting the program faster.

Public submissions for verification are still suspended as the company continues to chart a path forward with one of its most popular features. If the move by Twitter works to bring in new users, it may embolden other social platforms to more aggressively silence users that are antithetical to the company’s core values.

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