Twitter has removed blue ticks from a string of controversial users following criticism of the number of far-right figures who are verified on the platform.
English Defence League (EDL) founder Tommy Robinson is among those to lose their blue tick, a symbol which was introduced as a way to confirm the accounts of prominent people were genuine.
The social media network tweeted on Wednesday: “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.”
In July last year 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, including those espousing far-right views.
Twitter halted all new general verification of users on November 9 in response to a backlash over the verification of Jason Kessler, the US far-right figure who organised the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville at which counter-protester Heather Heyer was killed in August.
On Wednesday Twitter went further, actively stripping a number of users of their blue tick status, saying it would remove verification from accounts that do not meet new guidelines.
These 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 theses type of hatred are also at risk of losing verified status.
In response to his de-verification, Robinson wrote: “They remove my blue tick meanwhile Islamic terrorist organisations still have theirs. Go figure.”
American white nationalist Richard Spencer wrote: “Verified no more! Is it not okay to be proudly White?”
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh this week identified 419 fake Twitter accounts, believed to have been run from Moscow, that published posts about Brexit in an apparent attempt to influence UK politics.
The accounts are among more than 2,700 suspended by Twitter over concerns about Russian interference in foreign politics and are believed to have been operated by the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency.