Twitter, Inc. has put the brakes on its system of verifying users’ identities, admitting that it is “broken,” according to a report by Bloomberg.
The move comes following a storm of criticism after Twitter verified the account of Jason Kessler, the alleged mastermind behind the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August where one protester, Heather Heyer, was purposefully run over by a truck and killed.
“Verification was meant to authenticate identity & voice but it is interpreted as an endorsement,” said Twitter’s user support division in a tweet Thursday. “We recognize that we have created this confusion and need to resolve it.”
Any Twitter user can apply for verification and get a blue check mark on their account. Occasionally, the company has withdrawn or denied verification status. For example, Twitter removed the blue check mark from Milo Yiannopoulos’ account after it was reported he worked closely with white nationalists. And the founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, had his verification request denied.
But Twitter’s verification policies have been erratic and confusing.
“They’ve always said from the beginning that verification is not an endorsement, but a check mark in our culture does seem to convey that to many people,” said Stephen Balkam, founder of the Family Online Safety Institute, a nonprofit connected to Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council, in the Bloomberg report. “I can understand people’s outrage over verifying someone like Jason Kessler, with a confederate flag behind him.”