White Nationalists Freak Out After Losing Their Verified Twitter Status

Richard Spencer, who leads a movement that mixes racism, white nationalism and populism, speaks at the Texas A&M University campus Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016, in College Station, Texas. Texas A&M officials say they didn't schedule the speech by Spencer, who was invited to speak by a former student who reserved campus space available to the public. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
David J. Phillip/AP

Some of the country’s most prominent white nationalists accused Twitter of censorship on Wednesday after the social media site retracted the verified status of their accounts.

Twitter’s changes to its verification process, including the move to take away the little blue check that provided white nationalists like Richard Spencer higher prominence in search results, come as the company faces pressure for failing to crack down on hate speech on its platform.

Under the new guidelines, Twitter can remove verification “at any time without notice” for users “promoting hate and or/violence” against others based on their identities. Behaviors “on and off Twitter,” including “inciting or engaging in harassment,” now warrant removal.

Unsurprisingly, the white nationalists targeted flipped out—on Twitter.

“Verified no more! Is it not okay to be proudly White?” Spencer asked, subsequently tweeting that anyone on the right who retained their verified status was “system approved” and “utterly irrelevant.”

Jason Kessler, organizer of this summer’s violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville and whose verification last week prompted a mass backlash that ushered in these changes, posted the full letter he received from Twitter.

“Twitter has changed their verification policy just to be able to censor me,” Kessler lamented.

The company acknowledged in a series of tweets that verification, which was originally intended to authenticate the identities of prominent figures like celebrities and politicians, “has long been perceived as an endorsement.”

“This perception became worse when we opened up verification for public submissions and verified people who we in no way endorse,” Twitter said.

A slew of social media companies and web hosting sites took similar action in the wake of the Charlottesville rally, deleting white nationalists’ accounts. As many on the far right have acknowledged, losing access to mainstream sites makes it much harder for them to spread their message.

Far-right activist Laura Loomer repeatedly compared the removal of her allies’ blue check marks to the Holocaust, likening it to the Nazis’ “Final Solution” to annihilate Europe’s Jewish population.

Tim Gionet, the far-right troll known as Baked Alaska, was similarly dramatic after he was permanently banned from the platform.

In a video live stream from a California In-N-Out Burger parking lot, Gionet ranted that Twitter shouldn’t be allowed to “get away with this.” He was chastised by an elderly man for talking too loudly and by a British man who informed him that a private company like Twitter is able to alter its policies as it sees fit.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.

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