Twitter removed verification badges from a handful of prominent, largely far-right accounts on its service Wednesday afternoon.
The accounts — belonging to Unite the Right organizer Jason Kessler and white nationalist Richard Spencer, among others — lost their verified status under a new Twitter policy that makes verification contingent on compliance with the company's rules.
Twitter updated its verification guidelines Wednesday to mandate its rules be followed. It also added several new guidelines verified accounts must follow to remain in good standing, including prohibitions against the promotion of hate and violence, engagement in or incitement of harassment, and sharing of shocking or disturbing imagery. Verification, the company said, may be removed for behavior running afoul of these rules "on and off Twitter."
"We are conducting an initial review of verified accounts and will remove verification from accounts whose behavior does not fall within these new guidelines. We will continue to review and take action as we work towards a new program we are proud of," Twitter said in a tweet from its support account.
Within minutes of the tweet, Twitter removed verification badges from Spencer, Kessler, alt-right personalities Laura Loomer and James Allsup, and others. Twitter declined to specify how many accounts in unverified in response to an inquiry from BuzzFeed News.
Following the blue checkmark purge, along with the suspension of alt-right troll @BakedAlaska earlier Wednesday, alt-righters began calling for Twitter to be regulated like a public utility.
The move immediately raised questions about whether Twitter is turning verification into an endorsement after years of claiming it's simply a confirmation of someone's identity. "Instead of making verification about identity, now begins an endless, unresolvable series of editorial decisions that they'll be forced to defend," former Twitter executive Menotti Minutillo tweeted in response to the move.
Twitter has removed a verification badge following behavior it didn't like in the past. In January 2016, it removed provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos's badge due to rules violations following a harassment campaign, before eventually kicking him off the service. Now it is conducting a sweeping review of the verified designation and codifying its meaning and use into its help center.
Alex Kantrowitz is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco. He reports on social and communications.
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