05:26 GMT +315 November 2019
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    Twitter in Hot Water After Verifying Charlottesville Nationalist Rally Organizer

    © AFP 2019 / EMMANUEL DUNAND
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    Twitter has temporarily suspended its verification program following outrage over confirming the account of the white supremacist who organized the deadly rally in Charlottesville this summer. Critics argue that such a move could be regarded as endorsement of white nationalism.

    CEO Jack Dorsey, who has repeatedly pledged to wipe out violent groups, hate speech and posts glorifying violence, has commented on the issue, saying that the verification system is "broken" and needs to be improved.

    His comment came days after Twitter handed a verified badge to Jason Keller, the leader of the nationalist rally in Charlottesville that turned  violent after a driver plowed into a crown of counter-protesters, killing a woman. Kessler later wrote on Twitter that the slain woman was a "fat, disgusting Communist" and her murder "was payback time."

    "We failed by not doing anything about it," he added.

    ​Twitter verifies accounts of a person of public interest, including politicians, celebrities and journalists. Verified accounts feature a blue check mark next to their name.

    "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 said in a statement announcing the decision.

    ​Many Twitter users immediately reacted to the situation.

    ​"This is disgusting," tweeted the comedian Michael Ian Black who has over 2.1 million followers. "Verifying white supremacists reinforces the increasing belief that your site is a platform for hate speech. I don't want to give up Twitter, but I may have to. Who do you value more, users like me or him?"

    Former Twitter employee Leslie Miley criticized Kessler’s verification, saying the move "legitimizes" racism.

    ​Many users also claimed that Twitter’s system is not transparent, as many people are denied verification even after multiple requests and following the rules.

    ​Some suggested that suspension of the verification program is not exactly what is needed to keep the social media platform free from hate and violent speeches.

    August's rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was organized to protest against the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. The clashes between rally participants and counter-protesters, including Antifa, which have culminated in a car-ramming attack that killed one person and injured 19 others, occurred when police withdrew and allowed the two groups to meet.

    Following the incident, two lawsuits were filed against the organizers and attendees of the rally in order to prevent violent clashes from happening again.

    The clashes have sparked a debate on the Confederate flags and monuments and also resulted in criticism of US President Donald Trump's attitude to the events at the white nationalist rally, who first blamed "both sides" for the violence, but later condemned all kinds of racism and supremacism.

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