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Twitter withdraws “certified” status from several US far-right accounts

As a result of several polemics, the social network will change the rules for the attribution of its “certified” status, which grants privileges to certain users.

No impunity for celebrities. Twitter announced Wednesday night new rules to regulate its certified users. This status, symbolized by a logo in the form of a blue notch, is given by the social network to its members exercising a public profession or to celebrities. It can also be women or politicians, artists, journalists, etc. Nevertheless, Twitter has been criticized several times for granting this privileged status to highly polemical personalities: this is for example the case of several users claiming the American extreme right, or white supremacists. The social network finally announced that a certified user would automatically lose his badge if he broke the rules set by the network at least once.

“The certification process has long been viewed as an endorsement [of a Twitter user’s tweets, Ed],” the company said in a series of tweets. “We should have solved this problem well before, but we have not made it a priority, as we should have done.” Twitter says it is now working on a new account certification system. For a week, she has suspended applications for this famous status.

Moderation issues
Twitter has had a lot of controversy about it. Many users had criticized the certification of Milo Yiannopoulos, a prominent figure in the so-called alt-right movement. Former journalist, the latter had finally lost his badge before being banned from the social network. He had organized an online harassment campaign against American actress Leslie Jones. More recently, Twitter once again found itself in turmoil for granting a certified badge to Jason Kessler, another extreme right-winger who staged a white supremacist protest in Charlottesville in August. An anti-racist activist was killed during the event, cut off by a protester’s car. Jason Kessler finally lost his certification Tuesday night, along with other users close to the far right.

For a long time, Twitter attributed the certifications alone, by directly contacting people who were given the badge. They were originally intended to prevent fake accounts of celebrities, and to give more credibility to public figures. In 2016, this process has been relaxed. Any user of the social network could ask to be certified, to verify his identity. But Twiiter never explained the criteria that allowed to benefit from this status. The badge is useful for having greater visibility on the social network: tweets from certified accounts tend to be favored by Twitter’s algorithms. “When we opened the certifications to the general public, many people thought we would approve and support everyone who was certified, which is not true,” says the company.

These controversies are part of a more general problem of moderation. Twitter has been criticized for several years for its lack of control of hate messages and problematic users on its platform. Officially, Twitter rules prohibit “targeted harassment of others” or “hateful driving” based on the origins, sexual orientation, gender, religion or disability of other users.

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