Twitter has suspended its account verification policy after it came under fire for giving a coveted blue checkmark used to establish authenticity of identities to Jason Kessler, one of the organizers of the deadly Unite the Right protest in Charlottesville, Virginia in August.
The social media company announced the news on Thursday, a day after Kessler’s verification was granted.
“Verification was meant to authenticate identity & voice but it is interpreted as an endorsement or an indicator of importance,” Twitter said in a statement on its support account. “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 Chief Executive Jack Dorsey said a change to the verification policy has long been necessary.
“Our agents have been following our verification policy correctly, but we realized some time ago the system is broken and needs to be reconsidered,” he tweeted, adding that he should have addressed the issue sooner. “And we failed by not doing anything about it. Working now to fix faster.”
Earlier, Kessler celebrated Twitter’s decision to verify his account, writing, “Looks like I FINALLY got verified by Twitter. I must be the only working class white advocate with that distinction.”
The 34-year-old white nationalist and “alt-right” activist has 13.2K followers.
Meanwhile, celebrities like Michael Ian Black criticized Twitter for the decision.
“Hey @jack: very active user, 2.1M followers here: this is disgusting,” Black wrote. “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?”
As the backlash mounted, Kessler defended himself. “I never claimed to be ‘superior’ to anyone else because of my race,” he said. “However, my people are beautiful, unique & deserve to have a voice like anyone else.”
RELATED VIDEO: Story Behind the Story: Charlottesville and the Death of Heather Heyer
The Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville was intended to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, but turned deadly when a driver rammed his car into a group of counter-protesters, killing a 32-year-old woman, Heather Heyer, on the University of Virginia campus.
Two Virginia state troopers, Jay Cullen and Berke Bates, also died in a helicopter crash near the demonstrations.
In the wake of the attack, Twitter became a place where members worked to identify the white nationalists who participated in the protests in an attempt to name (and shame) them.
Actress Jennifer Lawrence also got in on the effort, sharing photos of some marchers on Facebook. “These are the faces of hate. Look closely and post anyone you find,” Lawrence, 27, wrote in the post. “You can’t hide with the internet you pathetic cowards!”