IBTPOTY2017 Pictures of the week
19 October 2017: A man wearing a T-shirt with swastikas on it is punched by an unidentified member of the crowd near the site of a planned speech by white nationalist Richard Spencer at the University of Florida campus in Gainesville Brian Blanco/Getty Images

Changes to Twitter's verification process have left a number of far-right and white nationalist figures – including Richard Spencer and Jason Kessler – without their cherished blue tick.

The move, the social network said, was part of an policy update to delegitimise a slew of individuals whose behaviour failed to fall within a set of updated guidelines for the platform.

The majority of figures impacted are aligned with the alt-right; others have links to Neo-Nazism.

Spencer has long been a poster boy for extremism and became infamous after being punched in the face during a pro-Trump rally in January.

Kessler, meanwhile, was behind the gatherings in Charlottesville earlier this year that resulted in the death of counter-protester Heather Heyer.

Twitter faced intense criticism after Kessler's profile was suddenly brandishing a blue tick – often viewed as a seal of approval on the micro-blogging service.

Other people in the purge were conservative activist Laura Loomer, recently banned from Uber after going on an anti-Muslim tirade, and Tommy Robinson, founder of the English Defence League (EDL) – an Islamophobic group known for poorly-attended street demonstrations in Britain.

In a statement Wednesday (15 November), Twitter explained the main reasons behind the sudden changes. It said: "Verification has long been perceived as an endorsement.

"We gave verified accounts visual prominence on the service which deepened this perception."

The tweets, from a support account, continued: "We should have addressed this earlier but did not prioritise the work as we should have. This perception became worse when we opened up verification for public submissions and verified people who we in no way endorse."

In an updated terms of service, Twitter said it reserves the right to remove verification of accounts without notice. Reasons include: Intentionally misleading people by changing display names, promoting hate or violence and inciting or engaging in harassment of other users.

Previously verified accounts may not be eligible to have their blue ticks restored, it warned.

The individuals behind the targeted accounts have claimed the social network is attempting to silence them for their views. Others said they were being personally victimised.

"Twitter has changed their verification policy just to be able to censor me," claimed Kessler, who describes himself a journalist, while complaining about the deletion of another controversial profile known as "Baked Alaska", a US white nationalist called Tim Gionet.

"Verified no more! Is it not okay to be proudly white?" Spencer wrote. Laura Loomer has made numerous posts, tweeting that Twitter was carrying out a "final solution for conservatives."

"The attacks against me are 100% political and shed more light onto how hostile the tech and social media industry is to anyone who challenges left wing agendas," she wrote.

"The truth is now hate speech," tweeted Robinson.

Going forward, Twitter has pledged to roll out a new authentication and verification programme. At the time of writing the website is not accepting public submissions for the coveted blue ticks.

It said: "We are conducting an initial review of verified accounts and will remove verification from accounts whose behaviour does not fall within these new guidelines. We will continue to review and take action as we work towards a new programme we are proud of."

Richard Spencer
White nationalist Richard Spencer (C) and his supporters clash with Virginia State Police in Emancipation Park after the 'Unite the Right' rally was declared an unlawful gathering August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images