Twitter put their thumb on the scale over the controversy surrounding Sarah Jeong, officially verifying the newest member of the New York Times editorial team earlier this week.
Jeong, who spent most of her existence online without official verification as a senior writer at The Verge and elsewhere will now enjoy the all the algorithm privileges afforded to the platform’s elite group of blue check holders. She was not verified as of Aug. 13, 2018, according to an internet archive snapshot.
A spokesperson for Twitter told TheWrap that the request for verification came in through The NY Times, which was standard for their reporters and that it subsequently went through the normal verification process.
While Twitter has gone through various forms of distributing the coveted blue check, it has increasingly become a mark of endorsement by the social network, particularly after the company began to “unverify” accounts from people they deem as hate figures.
Richard Spencer, Laura Loomer and Louis Farrakhan have all lost their blue check marks over user concerns that they were promoting hateful content. Wikileaks chief Julian Assange has never received the honor at all despite clearly being a figure of public interest and publicly complaining about it to his more than 750,000 followers.
Twitter has binary class system with proximity to power represented by 'blue tick' insignia. I am enjoying being one of its deplorables.
— #FreeAssange! (tweets by campaign)⌛ (@JulianAssange) March 15, 2017
While the company officially says the check is not an “endorsement,” it also “reserves the right to remove verification at any time without notice,” according to the company’s official guidelines before going on to cite a list of behavior that is forbidden on the platform and presumably override whatever standard was used to grant a verified account’s check in the first place.
Jeong stirred outrage earlier this month after she was hired by the New York Times when old tweets emerged of her making a number of anti-white statements. Critics immediately seized on the comments as evidence of racism and the Times faced a lengthy campaign against her.
Subsequent disclosure also revealed several disparaging comments she made toward her new colleagues on the editorial board including Paul Krugman, David Brooks and Tom Friedman — who she said she wished she could fire.
The Times has released a careful statement over the issue in which said they stood by Jeong while distancing themselves from her remarks. There was no official condemnation or apology from either the paper or Jeong.
“Her journalism and the fact that she is a young Asian woman have made her a subject of frequent online harassment. For a period of time she responded to that harassment by imitating the rhetoric of her accusers,” the Times said. “She now sees that this approach only served to feed the vitriol that we too often see on social media. She regrets it, and the Times does not condone it.”
Our statement in response to criticism of the hiring of Sarah Jeong. pic.twitter.com/WryIgbaoqg
– NYTimes Communications (@NYTimesPR) August 2, 2018
Public criticism of Jeong’s hire at the times by Times employees, however, appears to be strictly forbidden. After Elizabeth Williamson, feature’s writer, for the paper rebuked Jeong after her hire — the outrage mob descended and an apology swiftly followed.
“I just deleted my earlier tweet about this column. It was inappropriate,” Williamson said in a statement. “I apologize.” she said, while also included a link to Times opinion columnist Bret Stephens’ piece in which said he was willing to look past the Jeong outrage.
I just deleted my earlier tweet about this column. It was inappropriate. I apologize. https://t.co/Z6tNMHHzMD
– Elizabeth Williamson (@NYTLiz) August 9, 2018