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18th of July 2018

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Seth Rogen calls out Twitter's Jack Dorsey for the platform's white supremacist problem

Seth Rogen is calling Twitter out for giving more than just a platform to white supremacists.Seth Rogen is calling Twitter out for giving more than just a platform to white supremacists.Image: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic2018%2f06%2f26%2fc2%2f20182f062f252f5a2fphoto.d9abc.b1c04By Matt Binder2018-07-03 23:14:50 UTC

Seth Rogen is sick and tired of how Twitter has been dealing with the racists and white supremacists who plague the platform.

The actor called out Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Tuesday in a public tweet.

I’ve been DMing with @jack about his bizarre need to verify white supremacists on his platform for the last 8 months or so, and after all the exchanges, I’ve reached a conclusion: the dude simply does not seem to give a fuck.

— Seth Rogen (@Sethrogen) July 3, 2018

Rogen says he's been privately messaging Jack via Twitter for months, trying to figure out what the company has in mind when it verifies white supremacists on its platform.

Rogen’s conclusion? The CEO of Twitter doesn’t much care.

Twitter verifies notable users with a little blue checkmark next to their username. According to the company, “the blue verified badge on Twitter lets people know that an account of public interest is authentic.” Along with the bragging rights of being verified come other benefits. For example, Twitter’s algorithm clearly favors verified users when ordering the replies to other tweets.

So, why is Twitter verifying white supremacists?

have you considered not giving nazis a platform on your website

— Ashley Feinberg (@ashleyfeinberg) June 19, 2018

In November of 2017, Twitter became aware it had a verification problem when the company gave a blue checkmark to Jason Kessler, the organizer of the deadly Unite the Right neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville. Verified users on its platform gain a level of authority from the public. Being verified on Twitter didn’t just mean you are who you say you are. It was perceived by most who used the platform as an endorsement from Twitter: The verified users were important people. Even Twitter knew this.

Verification was meant to authenticate identity & voice but it is interpreted as an endorsement or an indicator of importance. 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 Support (@TwitterSupport) November 9, 2017

2 / Verification has long been perceived as an endorsement. We gave verified accounts visual prominence on the service which deepened this perception. We should have addressed this earlier but did not prioritize the work as we should have.

— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) November 15, 2017

5 / 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 Support (@TwitterSupport) November 15, 2017

After public outcry, Twitter released a statement announcing it was changing the verification rules and removing verified badges from any account “promoting hate and/or violence,” among other things. One specific update to the verification process included a rule claiming that Twitter would enforce its rules based not only on tweets, but also on users' behavior off the platform.

We're not sure if Seth Rogen was referring to a specific account— the actor was tweeting about a racist and anti-semitic meme posted on former Senator Ron Paul’s account one day earlier (Paul blamed it on a staffer) – or if Rogen was speaking generally about the issues. 

In any case, Twitter still clearly has a white supremacist problem. Aside from the slew of trolls and non-verified white supremacist accounts on the site, some of the more notable racists are still somehow getting around Twitter’s updated verification rules.

For instance, take Vice co-founder Gavin McInnes, who split with his company in 2008. He's a verified Twitter user. Vic Berger, a satirical video maker who has gone after Twitter white supremacists in his work, put together the video compilation below showcasing examples of how McInnes might be breaking Twitter’s rules. But, McInnes still has a verified badge.

This past weekend, McInnes’ group, Proud Boys, a far-right wing organization that proclaims themselves to be proud "Western chauvinists," took part in an alt-right rally in Portland. Fights broke out at the rally after the groups marching were met by counter protesters and anti-fascists. Police intervened, declared that the rally had turned into a riot, and revoked the rally goers' permit. The Proud Boys are verified on Twitter. Yet the SPLC has labeled the Proud Boys as a designated hate group.

Another test of the rule that Twitter considers off-platform actions when verifying Twitter users is Gab, "an ad-free social network" labeled by its founders as a “free speech network.” A quick visit to the site finds it almost solely populated by members of the racist alt-right who were actually banned on Twitter for their actions, including many white supremacists and open neo-Nazis. Gab is verified on Twitter.

Twitter has taken action before when prominent people point out abusive behavior that previously went unpunished. In 2016, Twitter banned Milo Yiannopoulos after he led a harassment campaign against Saturday Night Live’s Leslie Jones. Due to the barrage of harassment, the SNL star was forced to quit Twitter, which caused pretty much everyone against online harassment to rally behind her and demand Twitter take action.

However, judging by Seth Rogen’s recounting of his exchanges with Jack, maybe even the celebs can’t save Twitter from itself anymore.

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