Twitter has vowed to fix its ‘broken’ verification policy amid controversy over the verification of an account belonging to an organizer of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.

Verified accounts, which are denoted by a blue checkmark, let Twitter users know that an account deemed to be “of public interest” is authentic.


However, the recent verification of a Twitter account belonging to Jason Kessler, one of the organizers of this summer’s Charlottesville rally, has sparked outrage.

“Looks like I FINALLY got verified by Twitter. I must be the only working class white advocate with that distinction,” Kessler tweeted Tuesday.

Twitter was slammed for verifying Kessler’s account. Comedian Michael Ian Black, who has 2.16 million Twitter followers, described the situation as “disgusting,” and threatened to leave Twitter. “Verifying white supremacists reinforces the increasing belief that your site is a platform for hate speech. I don't want to give up Twitter, but I may have to. Who do you value more, users like me or him?” he tweeted Tuesday.

“Jason Kessler is so toxic that he broke Twitter's verification process,” tweeted anti-fascist activist Emily Gorcenski.

Kessler’s account was still verified on Friday morning.

Twitter acknowledged that more work is needed on its verification policy, and announced a pause in general verifications Thursday.


Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said that, while Twitter’s verification policy had been followed correctly, there are issues with the policy itself. “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,” he tweeted Thursday.

“Verification was meant to authenticate identity & voice but it is interpreted as an endorsement or an indicator of importance,” tweeted Twitter Support. “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.”

The row places Twitter’s criteria for deeming an account “of public interest” firmly in the spotlight. The account of white supremacist Richard Spencer is verified on Twitter, although, as critics have noted, the account of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is unverified.

“We approve account types maintained by users in music, acting, fashion, government, politics, religion, journalism, media, sports, business, and other key interest areas,” explains Twitter on its site. “We’ll ask you to tell us why we should verify an account. If the account represents a person, we want to understand their impact in their field,” it added.

Users looking to get their Twitter accounts verified need to provide Twitter with information such as a verified phone number, a confirmed email address, a bio, profile photo and login verification.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers