TAKALA: Has Twitter Stopped Verifying Fox News Staff?

Rudy Takala | Contributor

Twitter is declining to approve new “verification” checkmarks for a number of Fox News employees, sources familiar with the issue have told The Daily Caller, including for reporters and support staff, such as producers and writers.

The social media giant has traditionally provided celebrities, politicians and journalists with a blue verification mark to confirm the authenticity of their accounts. According to sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the company stopped verifying new employees at Fox News toward the end of 2018. It isn’t clear how many haven’t been verified, though a scan of the site easily revealed well over a dozen.

It’s the latest development to follow a November dispute over the way Twitter handles threats to journalists made by users on its platform. A user that month published a message revealing the home address for Fox News anchor — and The Daily Caller co-founder — Tucker Carlson. A mob associated with the anarchist group antifa appeared at Carlson’s home to stage a protest, which included damaging Carlson’s front door.

Twitter banned the group, Smash Racism DC, on Nov. 7. However, Fox News stopped using its main account on the site in protest. The company hasn’t used its official Twitter handle since Nov. 8, though individual Fox reporters and anchors are still active. (RELATED: Google Employees Debated Burying Conservative Media In Search Results)

The process of getting “verified” on Twitter — a platform populated predominantly by journalists — has become a rite of passage for members of the media. For years, Twitter offered an online form that users could submit to request verification but removed it in 2017 after critics panned the site for verifying Jason Kessler, an organizer of an alt-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Since that time, journalists wishing to get verified have generally been left to figure out the process on their own, using personal connections or other means to get in touch with the right person at Twitter headquarters.

A spokesman for Twitter said they couldn’t comment on the matter — or say when the company last verified anyone associated with Fox News — but directed The Daily Caller to a series of July messages posted by Twitter Product Lead Keyvon Beykpour in which he said Twitter had “paused” verification for much of the public.

“Despite that goal, we still verify accounts ad hoc when we think it serves the public conversation & is in line with our policy,” Beykpour wrote. “This has led to frustration [because] our process remains opaque & inconsistent with our intented [sic] pause.”

Twitter has also long been opaque about how it handles threats and harassment by its users, especially when it comes to “doxing,” a term used to describe the publication of personal information such as home addresses. The practice is often used to intimidate conservatives in the media — addresses for Daily Caller staffers were published by Twitter users associated with antifa in an unrelated incident last week — but is occasionally used against liberals, as well. Twitter generally turns a blind eye.

At first glance, Twitter’s terms of service appear to prohibit the publication of “personal home addresses.” However, the terms add, “although you may consider certain information to be private, not all postings of such information may be a violation of this policy.” The site says it will consider exceptions according to case-specific facts.

The matter raises several questions: Did Twitter halt verifications in retaliation against Fox News for its decision to stop actively using the platform, or is the company trying to appease Fox executives by respecting their decision to minimize the presence of their employees on the site? Was the decision made by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey or the company’s board? Or are mid-level staffers simply asleep at the wheel?

Twitter’s conflict with Fox News may be escalating, but the silence is deafening.

This column has been updated to note that Twitter banned the group responsible for exposing Tucker Carlson’s address on Nov. 7.

Follow Rudy Takala on Twitter.

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