Update — Nov. 15, 2017: Twitter now says that it can rescind a user’s verified status if that user violates the company’s guidelines. On Wednesday, a week after Twitter verified Kessler, the company removed his verification. He wasn’t happy.
Twitter also revoked the verification for another known white supremacist, Richard Spencer. He was also unhappy.
Everyone is mad at Twitter again, this time over the company’s decision to verify Jason Kessler, one of the organizers of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville this past August.
Twitter verifies all kinds of accounts it considers “of public interest,” including celebrities, athletes and journalists (hi!). 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.
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
But Twitter’s verification system has also become a status symbol over the years, in part because the group of verified users on Twitter is a very small portion of the overall user base. While the literal meaning of a check mark was about verifying identity, having a check mark has also evolved into a pseudo endorsement from the company — a confirmation that Twitter valued someone as important.
Which is why people got upset on Wednesday when Twitter verified Kessler, a move that, in the minds of many, legitimized a white supremacist.
Twitter is now admitting its system is flawed.
“Our agents have been following our verification policy correctly, but we realized some time ago the system is broken and needs to be reconsidered,” CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted Thursday morning. “And we failed by not doing anything about it. Working now to fix faster.”
We should’ve communicated faster on this (yesterday): our agents have been following our verification policy correctly, but we realized some time ago the system is broken and needs to be reconsidered. And we failed by not doing anything about it. Working now to fix faster. https://t.co/wVbfYJntHj— jack (@jack) November 9, 2017
It’s unclear what the solution is. 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. (Facebook, for comparison, requires users to use their “authentic name” on the social network.)
Twitter’s verification issues are the latest in a string of policy-related decisions that have created animosity with its users. First was Twitter’s controversial decision to temporarily suspend actress Rose McGowan from the service for tweeting about her alleged sexual assault, and then its retroactive decision to ban Russian news outlet RT from advertising on the service only after it was made public that RT may have been involved in trying to influence last year’s U.S. presidential election.
Correction: This story originally mentioned known white supremacist Richard Spencer as the verified user that prompted Twitter’s response. Spencer is also verified, but that decision was made previously.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.