Elon Musk’s purge of blue check-marks from Twitter accounts verified under the company’s previous regime has begun.
Now a blue check-mark badge on Twitter primarily signifies that it’s an account belonging to someone who is paying Musk — one of the world’s wealthiest individuals — for the perk. The move to trash Twitter’s former verification system, which had been in place since 2009, could generate new confusion among users and erode trust in the platform. When the Musk-owned company relaunched Twitter Blue, which starts at $8 per month, it yielded a spate of authentic-looking imposters with blue check-marks (including someone parodying Musk’s Tesla) before the company installed additional safeguards.
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On April 20, as Musk had announced, Twitter started un-checking thousands of “legacy” verified accounts — those which the company had previously deemed to be “active, notable and authentic” — unless those users were subscribers to Twitter Blue.
Some of the most-followed celebrities on Twitter who have lost their legacy verification status include Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian, Selena Gomez, Bill Gates, Justin Timberlake, Shakira, Jennifer Lopez, Oprah Winfrey and Beyoncé. Also losing verified status Thursday was Donald Trump, whom Musk reinstated last fall after Twitter had banned the former president following the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Since then, Trump hasn’t resumed tweeting.
However, at press time, several widely followed accounts — including Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Britney Spears, Ellen DeGeneres, Miley Cyrus, LeBron James and Tim Cook — still had verified check-marks. On Thursday afternoon, the wording on those accounts had changed to say, “This account is verified because they are subscribed to Twitter Blue and verified their phone number.” (Previously they said “This account is verified because it’s subscribed to Twitter Blue or is a legacy verified account,” a description the company introduced earlier this month.)
But at least in some cases that appeared to be incorrect. Stephen King, who still has a blue check-mark, tweeted, “My Twitter account says I’ve subscribed to Twitter Blue. I haven’t. My Twitter account says I’ve given a phone number. I haven’t.” Meanwhile, LeBron James previously said he wouldn’t pay for Twitter Blue.
Barack Obama, with 132 million Twitter followers, retains a blue check-mark, with the description explaining that his account is verified “because it’s an affiliate of @TheObamaOffice on Twitter.” Similarly, Musk’s account notes that he is “an affiliate of @Twitter on Twitter.” Musk recently topped Obama to become the social network’s most-followed user and he currently has more than 135 million followers.
In November Musk pledged to dismantle the legacy blue-check mark system shortly after closing the $44 billion deal for Twitter. The multibillionaire disparaged the company’s previous verification policy as “corrupt and nonsensical.” Last month Musk, in replying to William Shatner’s complaint about Twitter’s move to force users to pay for verified status, “There shouldn’t be a different standard for celebrities” when it comes to verified status. Musk previously told King — who also balked at the notion of paying for a blue check-mark — “We need to pay the bills somehow!”
Prior to Musk’s change allowing anyone to get a blue check-mark, Twitter had more than 420,000 verified accounts. The goal of Twitter’s original verification program was to help people know that a high-profile user was, in fact, who they said they were to avoid confusion with imposters.
Twitter also has launched a program for businesses and organizations that costs $1,000 per month for gold verification badges. (Twitter now uses gray check-marks for governmental accounts.) However, the company is reportedly waiving the fees for its 500 largest advertising clients and the 10,000 most-followed brands, companies and organizations that have been previously verified (a group that includes Variety’s Twitter account). Accounts of individual users who are affiliated with a verified organization have a blue check-mark plus an icon denoting their organization.
Musk stripped the verification badge from the New York Times’ primary account earlier this month, after the news outlet had stated publicly that it wouldn’t pay for verified status on Twitter.
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