Twitter Updates Verification Policy; Unverifies Saudi Political Prisoners

Twitter Policy Decisions Suspended Government Wtf...

On December 17, 2020, Twitter announced that they would be revamping their verification standards. As part of enforcing this policy, which would begin about a month later on January 20, Twitter said they would be removing the verified badge (aka. the “blue checkmark”) from inactive accounts.

We’ll begin enforcing this policy on January 20, 2021, which is also when we’ll begin automatically removing the verified badge from inactive and incomplete accounts.

This ended up having some disturbing consequences, namely the removal of the verified badge from political prisoners in Saudi Arabia. Twitter suspended one of them as well. As reported by the Middle East Eye:

Twitter has removed the blue verified badge from the accounts of several Saudi political prisoners, including two prominent clerics who were detained in a crackdown against reformists, activists and government critics.

Among those whose verification label has been removed are Ali al-Omary and Awad al-Qarni, two senior religious figures who have been jailed since 2017. They were seized during a purge that followed Mohammed bin Salman’s rise to the position of crown prince.

Similarly, the accounts of the Saudi philanthropist Khaled al-Mohawesh and journalist Khaled al-Alkami, also jailed in the 2017 purge, had their blue tick removed, according to the advocacy Twitter account Prisoners of Conscience. It added that the account of economist Essam el-Zamil, another political prisoner, has been suspended. He tweeted under the handle @Essamz.

Why Twitter couldn’t simply account for these types of situations is even more odd considering the corporation did outline a specific exception to the new policy for accounts of people who are no longer living:

We are not planning to automatically remove the verified badge from inactive accounts of people who are no longer living, and are working on building a way to memorialize these accounts in 2021.

As a side note, Twitter also added that they might remove the blue checkmark from accounts that severely or repeatedly violate the Twitter Rules:

Under our policy, we may also remove verification from accounts that are found to be in severe or repeated violation of the Twitter Rules.

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