Last night, while everybody was already mad at Twitter over the mass-rollout of the new 280-character limit, the social media service evidently decided to steer into the spin by granting a coveted verification checkmark to Jason Kessler, the asshole who masterminded the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville earlier this year and later tweeted that the death of Heather Heyer—who was killed while protesting his rally—was “payback time.” Twitter recently made its verification process easier, meaning more people were eligible to get them, but the site’s own information page explains that they’re primarily for indicating that “an account of public interest is authentic.”
Either way, Twitter uses saw Kessler’s verification as an implied endorsement that legitimized him and his dangerous, racist beliefs. In other words, it was like Twitter was saying that it doesn’t specifically agree with white supremacy, but that it does believe it’s a valid viewpoint. The backlash against Twitter was swift and vicious, to the extent that both the Twitter Support account and CEO Jack Dorsey himself were forced to come forward and explain what happened, and in a rare move for the site, they both noted that verifying Kessler was emblematic of larger issues with the platform.
As they explain, Twitter has now “paused all general verifications” while it presumably comes up with a system that doesn’t legitimize racists. It’s unclear what that means specifically, but perhaps Dorsey’s realization that his company “failed” by not addressing the issues with verification will lead to him having similar realizations about other ways the company has failed. Or, better yet, maybe it’ll convince him to go all the way and just shut the whole nightmare down, freeing us from its evil grip once and for all.