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Twitter suspends verification program after white supremacist rally organizer gets blue check

SAN FRANCISCO — Twitter has suspended its verification program following outrage over handing a blue checkmark to the organizer of the deadly Charlottesville rally in August.

This week, Twitter verified the account of Jason Kessler who, after the death of Heather Heyer, tweeted that Heyer was a “fat, disgusting Communist” whose death “was payback time.”

“Looks like I FINALLY got verified by Twitter,” Kessler wrote in a tweet Tuesday. “I must be the only working class white advocate with that distinction.”

Twitter has not said why it verified Kessler’s account. In general, Twitter verifies accounts belonging to a person of “public interest” such as celebrities, journalists and politicians but says that verification is not intended to be an endorsement of that individual. But having a verified account on Twitter is a status symbol that confers perks such as appearing at the top of searches.

“Verification was meant to authenticate identity & voice but it is interpreted as an endorsement or an indicator of importance,” Twitter said in a tweet announcing its decision to pause the verification program. “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.”

CEO Jack Dorsey recently renewed his pledge to wipe out violent groups, hate symbols and speech and tweets that glorify violence.

“Twitter has made a mess of everything related to race, racial harassment, online hate and this is just one more example of their inability to get it together on this front,” said Heidi Beirich, spokeswoman for the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Anyone can apply to be verified on Twitter yet the decision-making process is opaque. White nationalist Richard Spencer has a blue checkmark, but WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has never managed to get his account verified.

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