Twitter has temporarily suspended its "broken" verification system after Jason Kessler, the organiser of the recent deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, received the coveted blue tick earlier this week. Kessler's "Unite the Right" rally in August turned violent when neo-Nazis clashed with protesters and a car drove through a group of people.
After his Twitter account was verified on Tuesday (7 November), users slammed the company and questioned its policies, with many calling CEO Jack Dorsey a "hypocrite".
The controversial verification happened to come less than a month after Twitter yet again vowed to aggressively crack down on hateful speech, symbols and users glorifying violence on its platform.
Shortly after the violent rally, Kessler called the slain protester – Heather Heyer – a "fat, disgusting Communist" and tweeted that her death was "payback time." He later blamed a mixture of prescription drugs and alcohol for the highly controversial tweet and briefly deleted his account.
After his account was verified, Kessler - whose header image is a Confederate flag – tweeted: "Looks like I FINALLY got verified by Twitter. I must be the only working class white advocate for that distinction."
He later posted a poll asking his followers, now nearly 14,000 strong: "Is it ok to be white?" The poll has already garnered over 55,000 responses and counting.
"Verification was meant to authenticate identity & voice but it is interpreted as an endorsement or an indicator of importance," Twitter said on its official account following the backlash over Kessler's brand new blue tick. "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."
Dorsey tweeted on Thursday: "We should've communicated faster on this (yesterday): our agents have been following our verification policy correctly, but we realized some time ago the system is broken and needs to be reconsidered. And we failed by not doing anything about it. Working now to fix faster."
As per Twitter's policy: "An account may be verified if it is determined to be an account of public interest. Typically this includes accounts maintained by users in music, acting, fashion, government, politics, religion, journalism, media, sports, business, and other key interest areas."
However, it notes that a verified badge "does not imply an endorsement by Twitter".
Kessler's Twitter bio says that he is a freelance journalist and lists his position as "organiser of Unite the Right." In response to the criticism over his new blue badge, Kessler tweeted that he "never claimed to be 'superior' to anyone else because of my race. However, my people are beautiful, unique & deserve to have a voice like anyone else".