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Twitter Verifies Charlottesville Rally Organizer Jason Kessler Weeks After Promising to “Take a More Aggressive Stance” Against Abuse

In creating Twitter, Jack Dorsey gave a comfortable home to hate speech and rampant bigotry, something that he’s been forced to address a number of times, though his occasional acknowledgements are nowhere near proportionate to the level of harassment present. He reached out to Leslie Jones after racist users drove her from the site, also banning Milo Yiannopoulos, who led the attacks. Just last month, after facing backlash for temporarily banning Rose McGowan in the midst of her breaking accusations against Harvey Weinstein, Dorsey announced the company’s plans to “counteract” the silencing of voices on Twitter.

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Apparently, the extent of their plan to make sure voices are heard is to double users’ character limit and bestow verification checkmarks on known white supremacists.

Jason Kessler, as you can see from his now-verified account bio there, is a contributor to a number of far-right-wing sites, including the Daily Caller, Tucker Carlson’s conspiracy-theory-ridden garbage heap. He also organized the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, which saw–among other violent attacks–the murder of protestor Heather Heyer. Following her death, this was Kessler’s response:

(He denied sending the tweet, saying his account was hacked, then took that back and blamed Ambien.)

And now this man has been deemed “verified” by Twitter. The company is adamant that verification does not equal endorsement, but in their own words, the check mark is designed to verify the authenticity of “an account of public interest.” They consider verification for users who work in “key interest areas,” like, I suppose, Naziism.

When applying for verification, Twitter asks users to explain why they deserve that blue check. “If the account represents a person, we want to understand their impact in their field. If it represents a corporation or company, let us know their mission.”

What do you think Kessler could have written there that was seen as worth verifying? Sure, the check mark may not be a direct endorsement of ideals, but Kessler had to describe some sort of mission or impact on his field that made Twitter say “You know what? Yeah! That guy has a voice worth amplifying.” Because verification is amplification. Blue-checked tweets show up first in searches and reply threads, and they also tend to have better luck with getting Twitter to take their claims of harassment and abuse seriously.

Also, no matter how hard Twitter protests, verification carries the appearance of “official” status and importance. Their solution? As of this morning, they’ve “paused all general verifications.” So Kessler can be verified, but no one else, at least not for a while. Like, until everyone hopefully forgets about all this.

How is Kessler using his newly verified statues? What contributions is he making to this community? In the day after receiving his verification, he called Rose McGowan a “thot” who has to be “held accountable” for seeking attention, claimed Virginia voted Democrat because, due to immigration, “large swathes of the state have no recognizable Americans; look like a third world bazaar,” and, oh yeah, this bullshit:

This is yet another reminder that when Twitter says they’re going to work on making sure our voices are heard and that abuse won’t be tolerated, they have absolutely no idea how to do those things.

(via The Daily Beast, featured image: Shutterstock)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.

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