Twitter has a white supremacist problem.
On Tuesday, Twitter gave its preferred status, a verified blue checkmark, to Jason Kessler, the organizer of the white supremacist Charlottesville rally that resulted in the murder of Heather Heyer and the brutal beating of DeAndre Harris at the hand of white supremacists.1
The blue checkmark of Twitter verification matters. Verified users’ tweets and profiles surface higher in searches allowing their messages to be spread faster and reach more people. By verifying Jason Kessler’s account, Twitter is directly enabling white supremacy and white nationalist ideology on its platform.
This comes less than a month after Twitter’s latest promise to weed out the promotion of hate and violence through the implementation of its “Trust and Safety Council.”2 The Trust and Safety Council reviews and gives feedback on Twitter’s policies, but has not been transparent about who is on this council and if anyone in the community has a seat at that table.3 Twitter can start to make good on its promise to fight hate by kicking Jason Kessler off the platform and adding marginalized voices to the Trust and Safety Council.
For years, people of color and women, particularly Black women, have been the victims of coordinated and vicious campaigns of abuse on Twitter.4 Prominent Black women like Leslie Jones and Normani Kordei were previously forced from the platform because of racist abuse and harassment.5 6Despite Twitter’s reliance on Black users, the company continues to drag its feet on addressing this type of everyday abuse targeted at Black users. Twitter has repeatedly stated that it plans to tackle this type of racist harassment and abuse but has so far failed to do so with the seriousness this situation requires.7
The cost of Twitter’s inaction is too high. The violence Jason Kessler helped to create in Charlottesville shows the devastating impacts of allowing white supremacists and white nationalists to elevate their hateful and often violent messages. This year has already seen an astoundingly rapid rise in hate crimes.8 The ability for hate leaders to openly and easily share their hateful rhetoric is partly to blame for this meteoric rise in hate motivated attacks.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Twitter can end its complicity in elevating and profiting from white nationalist ideologies. To do so, Twitter must take significantly bigger steps to cut white supremacists off from their platform and to genuinely engage marginalized voices on their Trust and Safety Council.
Until justice is real,
–Brandi, Rashad, Arisha, Evan, Johnny, Jade, Corina, Chad, Saréya, and the rest of the ColorOfChange team
1.”Twitter: Oops! Did We Accidentally Verify a White Nationalist? Our System Is Broken. We’ll Fix It—‘Soon’,” The Root, 9 November 2017. https://act.
2. “Twitter’s Promise to Be ‘Clearer’ on Harassment Lasts Two Hours,” The Daily Beast, 12 October 2017. https://act.
3. “Twitter Has a Serious Harassment and Abuse Problem but Doesn’t Seem to Want to Cure It,” The Root, 30 October 2017. https://act.
4. “Leslie Jones’ Twitter abuse is a deliberate campaign of hate” The Guardian, 19 July 2016. https://act.
5. “Ghostbusters Actress Leslie Jones Quits Twitter Over Racist Abuse,” The Fader, 19 July 2016. http://act.
6. “Fifth Harmony’s Normani Kordei Taking a Twitter Break After Receiving Racist Messages,” iHeartRadio, 6 August 2016. http://act.
7. “Twitter Would Like You To Know It Is Committed To Being More Transparent,” BuzzFeed, 12 October 2017. https://act.
8.“Exclusive: New Report Offers Proof Of US Hate Crime Rise In The Trump Era,” Buzzfeed, 18 September 2017. https://act.