1. ITV Report

Ticked off: Twitter removes verified status from controversial users

Former EDL leader Tommy Robinson has been stripped of his blue tick on Twitter. Credit: PA/Twitter

Twitter has removed blue ticks from a string of controversial users after criticism of the number of far-right figures who have verified status.

English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson and American white nationalist Richard Spencer were among those to lose their blue tick.

The symbol was introduced as a way to confirm the accounts of prominent people were genuine.

The social media platform said: "Verification has long been perceived as an endorsement. We gave verified accounts visual prominence on the service which deepened this perception.

"This perception became worse when we opened up verification for public submissions and verified people who we in no way endorse."

Twitter has faced a backlash over the verified status of US far-right figure Jason Kessler Credit: AP

In July 2016, Twitter made it easier for anyone to apply for verified status by providing a verified email address, phone number, photo and other information.

This increased the number of verified users on the network, including those expressing far-right views.

Twitter suspended all new general verification of users on November 9 in response to a backlash over the verification of US far-right figure Jason Kessler.

Kessler organised the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville at which counter-protester Heather Heyer was killed in August.

On Wednesday, Twitter stripped a number of users of their blue ticks saying it would remove verification from accounts that do not meet new guidelines.

Twitter's new guidelines include a ban on 'promoting hate'. Credit: PA

The new guidelines include a ban on promoting hate or threatening people on the basis of "race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability or disease".

Supporting organisations or individuals that promote these types of hatred are also at risk of losing verified status, it said.

In response to his de-verification, Mr Robinson wrote "the truth is now hate speech".

Meanwhile, Mr Kessler suggested the social media network changed its verification policy "just to be able to censor me".