‘Aggressive Stance’

Twitter Verifies Charlottesville Rally Boss Jason Kessler, Who Called Slain Protester’s Death ‘Payback Time’

The blue check mark came less than a month after the company’s latest promise to weed out the promotion of hate and violence.

Justin Ide

On Tuesday, Twitter gave its preferred status, a verified check mark, to Jason Kessler, the creator of the white supremacist Charlottesville rally in August that left one dead.

Kessler’s new verified status comes just 26 days after CEO Jack Dorsey again recommitted to eliminating “hate symbols, violent groups, and tweets that glorifies violence” from its platform.

Kessler previously deleted his Twitter account in August after he tweeted that Heather Heyer, the woman who was killed protesting the white nationalist rally he created, “was a fat, disgusting Communist” and that her death “was payback time."

Kessler blamed the tweet on taking too many prescription drugs mixed with alcohol.

Dorsey’s latest announcement detailing new harassment policies, and saying Twitter would “take a more aggressive stance in our rules and how we enforce them,” came one day after actress Rose McGowan tweeted she had been raped by Harvey Weinstein, and her account was subsequently suspended.

Twitter claimed McGowan’s account was then suspended because one of her tweets contained a phone number, but users protested the company for what many claimed was arbitrary enforcement of its harassment policy.

On Wednesday, one day after Kessler’s account was verified, he tweeted that "Rose McGowan should be held accountable for being a thot that will do anything for attention.”

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment. The company has responded to every request for comment on harassment-related inquiries from The Daily Beast in 2016 with the statement that “we do not comment on individual accounts, for privacy and security reasons.”

The company vowed last month that it would be “clearer about these policies and decisions in the future.” When asked for clarification about specific verified accounts hours after that statement, the company declined to comment.

Verified users’ tweets and profiles usually surface higher in searches, allowing for messages to be discovered faster on the social media platform.

Twitter’s description of its blue verified badge states it “lets people know that an account of public interest is authentic.” Many public figures, like Julian Assange, remain unverified, despite protestations from the Wikileaks founder.

As Buzzfeed’s Charlie Warzel noted, Twitter has made public comments promising more transparency several times since 2008, including several such pledges this year. Dorsey promised a “completely new approach to abuse on Twitter” in January. Twitter co-founder Biz Stone declared that “Twitter must be more transparent” in September.

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The Daily Beast’s Kelly Weill reported earlier this month on Twitter’s abuse and harassment queue, which “allows moderators to fast-track complaints they deem fit.”