Twitter Pauses Verifications Amid Controversy Over Charlottesville Organizer

White nationalist Jason Kressler's Twitter profile currently features Confederate flag as background.    
    Credit Shay Horse  Getty Images

Earlier this week, it emerged that Twitter had verified the account of Jason Kessler, the leader of a white supremacist demonstration in Charlottesville that spiraled into violence as a driver mowed down counter-protesters and killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer. A Twitter verification - visible by a small blue checkmark next to a user's name - is what Twitter uses to confirm someone's identity so that others know they are hearing from the real LeBron James, for example, not an impersonator. The organizer of the rally announced to his followers on Tuesday that he had been verified.

Twitter claim, however, that the blue tick is too often seen as an endorsement of a verified account by Twitter or as an indication of the account-holder's importance. Twitter's user guidelines allow for anonymous accounts, and anonymous users have been a big part of Twitter's identity and culture since the company's founding.

In a statement on Twitter, the company said: "We have paused all general verifications while we work and will report back soon". "We hope opening up this application process results in more people finding great, high-quality accounts to follow, and for these creators and influencers to connect with a broader audience". "Twitter is directly enabling white supremacy and white nationalist ideology".

The issue was a larger part of Twitter's issues with dealing with abuse, but the platform received more scrutiny after a white supremacist killed counter-protestor Heather Hayer with his vehicle during a right-wing rally in Charlottesville in August.

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Twitter has not yet responded to questions about what the pause means for the future of the verified status. "Looks like it was payback time", before linking to the neo-Nazi site the Daily Stormer, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Several celebrities on Twitter were quick to condemn Twitter's decision to give Kessler the badge.

CEO Jack Dorsey weighed in on the issue, saying that the company has known for awhile that the system was broken.

The company says the suspension is only temporary, and that it is working on a fix.