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Twitter says no verified marks for you, white nationalists

The social network removes the blue check mark for white nationalists Richard Spencer and Jason Kessler and promises more reviews are to come.

Twitter made good Wednesday on threats it would begin stripping its verification badge from accounts found to have crossed the line as the social network continues to review the process it uses to hand out the coveted blue check marks.

Twitter has long offered the badge to authenticate accounts that are of interest to the public. Such accounts have typically included those of public figures and organizations in entertainment, politics, business, sports and the media. But the company has recently begun to worry that the badges also conveyed an endorsement of the account by Twitter.

"Verification has long been perceived as an endorsement," the company tweeted Wednesday. "We gave verified accounts visual prominence on the service, which deepened this perception. We should have addressed this earlier but did not prioritize the work as we should have."

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Twitter said it will remove the verification badges from accounts whose behavior does not fit their guidelines.

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Twitter removed on Wednesday badges from two accounts associated with white nationalists. Richard Spencer, who advocates a separate white homeland, and Jason Kessler, the organizer of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, lost their badges Wednesday afternoon. The August rally in Charlottesville turned violent as neo-Nazis clashed with protesters, leaving one person dead and dozens injured. 

Twitter suspended its verification process last week after the social network drew widespread outrage for giving the verification badge to Kessler's account.

Spencer and Kessler didn't immediately respond to requests for comment, but Spencer responded to the action in a tweet that said: "Verified no more! Is it not okay to be proudly White?"

Kessler tweeted that Twitter "has changed their verification policy just to be able to censor me."

Twitter also suspended the account of alt-right troll Tim Gionet, better known by his Twitter handle @BakedAlaska. Gionet began trending worldwide and later ranted about his Twitter ban on YouTube

Twitter didn't immediately respond to a request for further comment.

The removals came as Twitter provided an update in a series of tweets about its suspended verification process. Twitter said it's working on a new authentication and verification program and still not accepting any new requests. 

"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," Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted last week. "And we failed by not doing anything about it. Working now to fix faster."

According to the social network's rules, a verified account can lose its status on the grounds of promoting hate, violent behavior or harassment, as well as posting gruesome images.

Twitter isn't the only internet company to crack down on far right speech. The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website, has bounced around domains since GoDaddy pulled its registration shortly after the Virginia rally. Cloudflare, which protects websites from denial-of-service attacks, also dropped the site

The moves were met with a mixed response. The Electronic Frontier Foundation criticized the decision by tech companies to revoke their services, saying the same tactic could be used to prevent other organizations, such as civil rights groups, from expressing themselves.  

First published Nov. 15, 4:09 p.m. PT.
Update, 5:20 p.m.: Added background.

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