On Thursday, the iconic blue checkmarks started disappearing from formerly verified Twitter accounts, as Elon Musk’s policies began to take effect.
Musk purchased the company for $44 billion in 2022 – and the world has witnessed its downfall first-hand as he struggled to make it profitable. He has been threatening to remove what he called “legacy blue checks” for months now. Prior to his buy-out, the checkmarks denoted that an account was authentic, and were given to famous personalities like actors, singers, journalists and more. Twitter first began adding verification labels to certain accounts in 2009 after someone on the service impersonated baseball manager Tony La Russa and La Russa sued the company.
Musk then introduced ‘Twitter Blue’, a controversial $8-a-month subscription program under which any account can obtain a blue checkmark. This was extremely chaotic as numerous ‘verified’ accounts cropped up impersonating brands and personalities. Advertisers pulled out from Twitter over the fear of losing credibility and in November, the platform had to temporarily pause changes to the subscription program. Regardless, Musk didn’t back down from his decision to monetize checkmarks.
The platform had initially said it would wind down the system on April 1. But the date passed and nothing happened. Then, last week, CEO Elon Musk announced a new date of April 20.
Final date for removing legacy Blue checks is 4/20
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 11, 2023
As of early Thursday afternoon, celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry and Kim Kardashian had lost their check marks. Several B-town celebrities including Shah Rukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Alia Bhatt and politicians are among those who had to kiss their blue ticks goodbye yesterday. Numerous high-profile users took to the platform to assert they would not pay for blue checkmarks under the new policy, while others announced they would leave the platform entirely. Nonprofit organizations Human Rights Watch and the NAACP have tweeted they will not be paying for Twitter Blue.
A plethora of false government accounts – including some posing as the US Internal Revenue Service amid tax-filing season – emerged on Thursday. Others changed their account photos and bios to impersonate prominent figures, with a fake Jeff Bezos tweeting he was dissolving Amazon.
Business and government organizations can still apply for verified status by subscribing to ‘Verified Organizations‘. but it is still seemingly subject to the fickle whims of Musk. “Any organization that purchases a subscription to Verified Organizations will receive a gold checkmark and square avatar if they are a business or non-profit, or a grey checkmark and circular avatar if they are a governmental or multilateral organization,” according to Twitter Help Centre.
On Thursday, the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, the metro system in the San Francisco Bay Area, where Twitter’s headquarters are located, tweeted it had applied for such a checkmark but had not heard back from the company.
Twitter now describes verified accounts as “verified because they are subscribed to Twitter Blue and verified their phone number.” But as some legacy verified profiles continue to hold on to their check marks, the new language has prompted speculation that some celebrities have paid for Twitter Blue.
taylor swift pays for twitter blue i’m losing my mindddd pic.twitter.com/0lWWl4f0dl
— Oriana González (@OrianaBeLike) April 20, 2023
Some celebrities have come out to confirm that they are not paying for Twitter Blue regardless of what the disclaimer on their account says. The entire ordeal is very confusing, and Twitter keeps losing credibility every day.
In a response to a tweet that reported “some celebrities have been offered a complimentary Twitter Blue subscription on behalf of Musk,” the CEO responded that he’s “paying for a few personally” – but it’s difficult to tell the difference at this stage.
Musk has been vocal about his dislike for the legacy verification system, calling it “bullshit,” “corrupt,” and a “lords & peasants system.” Journalists on the platform were able to be verified almost by default regardless of the size of their following or readership, which appears not to have been sitting right with Musk’s antagonistic relationship with the media.
Experts have stated that the failure to verify such entities increases the risks of scams and even threatens to collapse disaster response online, with agencies like the National Weather System now check-less.
According to Washington Post Musk said on Twitter Spaces earlier this month that he aims to make Twitter “the most trusted place on the internet”. Ever since Musk’s takeover of Twitter, most of his changes have very obviously been to undermine his critics in pure spite. He hasn’t done much to hide his disdain for journalists either. The way this entire ordeal has unfolded over the last year, his actions seem to reflect the exact opposite of his words.