Twitter cracks down on conservative personalities A wave of deverifications and suspensions hit over a dozen popular conservatives whose views are inconsistent with the platform’s political leanings.
Users feeling the brunt of the policy consist almost entirely of conservative personalities, including British anti-Islam activist and Rebel Media host Tommy Robinson, and political commentator Laura Loomer.
Baked Alaska, a popular figure within the Make America Great Again community on Twitter, was banned. His permanent suspension follows the platform’s termination of another conservative, Vox Day, who was banned days ago.
UPDATE: Tommy Robinson’s Twitter account has since also been banned, as has Laura Loomer’s. Here’s a screenshot from an archive:
The de-verifications to right-wing personalities follow the company’s new Terms of Service for verified users, which prohibit the following behaviors, both on and off the website:
- Intentionally misleading people on Twitter by changing one’s display name or bio.
- Promoting hate and/or violence against, or directly attacking or threatening other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease. Supporting organizations or individuals that promote the above.
- Inciting or engaging in harassment of others.
- Violence and dangerous behavior.
- Directly or indirectly threatening or encouraging any form of physical violence against an individual or any group of people, including threatening or promoting terrorism.
- Violent, gruesome, shocking, or disturbing imagery.
- Self-harm, suicide.
- Engaging in activity on Twitter that violates the Twitter Rules.
Twitter announced that accounts stripped of their blue checkmarks will be permanently prevented from receiving them again.
The verification checkmark was formerly given to users to verify their identity—and is often provided to journalists, artists, brands, and other media entities at risk of impersonation. Twitter however stated that the checkmarks were interpreted by users as an endorsement or an “indicator of importance.”
“We recognize that we have created this confusion and need to resolve it,” Twitter said in a statement.
“Verification has long been perceived as an endorsement. 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.”
“This perception became worse when we opened up verification for public submissions and verified people who we in no way endorse,” Twitter continued, adding that they are developing a new program to authenticate and verify users.
“We are conducting an initial review of verified accounts and will remove verification from accounts whose behavior does not fall within these new guidelines. We will continue to review and take action as we work towards a new program we are proud of,” the company concluded, with a link to new Terms of Services guidelines.”
Verification was meant to authenticate identity & voice but it is interpreted as an endorsement or an indicator of importance. 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
— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) November 9, 2017
5 / We are conducting an initial review of verified accounts and will remove verification from accounts whose behavior does not fall within these new guidelines. We will continue to review and take action as we work towards a new program we are proud of.
— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) November 15, 2017
Twitter has long claimed that blue checkmarks serve to verify a person’s identity, but the company’s decision to focus its de-verification efforts on conservatives is raising doubts about its agenda.
Kelly Ellis, a personality within the tech industry made popular by her claims of sexual harassment against Google, retains her blue checkmark despite openly violating Twitter’s terms of service. Ellis called for President Trump’s assassination and repeatedly directs harassment towards those who disagree with her on Twitter.
In contrast, MILO had his verification badge removed, long before being permanently suspended from the platform. Likewise, and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been repeatedly denied verification, despite his popularity as an international political figure and the target of impersonators.
— Defend Assange Campaign (@DefendAssange) March 14, 2017
Despite the obvious hypocrisy and imbalance in Twitter’s handing out of verification badges and its decision to selectively de-verify conservative voices, the company continues to claim that the badge “lets people know that an account of public interest is authentic,” per its support page.
“An account may be verified if it is determined to be an account of public interest. Typically this includes accounts maintained by users in music, acting, fashion, government, politics, religion, journalism, media, sports, business, and other key interest areas.”
It’s clear that the blue checkmark is a status symbol, and depriving certain users of the badge is nothing more than a transparent effort to delegitimize conservative voices. At least there’s Gab.