Twitter’s Legacy Blue Checks Are Gone, Stirring Confusion
Twitter Inc.’s widespread removal of legacy blue checkmarks was sowing confusion across the social-media platform on Friday, with celebrities saying they were verified without paying, government-affiliated labels on some media accounts disappearing and businesses being told they needed to pay for checkmarks to advertise.
Pope Francis lost his checkmark, as did Donald Trump and Christiano Ronaldo. Meanwhile, LeBron James still had a blue check by his name even though the athlete previously said he wouldn’t pay for a subscription.
“My Twitter account says I’ve subscribed to Twitter Blue. I haven’t,” the author Stephen King tweeted.
Musk said he was “paying for a few personally,” including King, James, and Star Trek actor William Shatner.
Some users immediately shared screenshots of their previously checkmarked profiles or offered other means of verification.
“This is an authentic account representing the New York City Government,” posted @NYCGov, providing a link to a government website for verification.
“No you’re not. THIS account is the only authentic Twitter account representing and run by the New York City Government,” replied @NYC_GOVERNMENT.
One account was able to attract a large amount of engagement purporting to be the Harry Potter author JK Rowling before being suspended along with the fake NYC government account.
It wasn’t just celebrities who were bewildered. Twitter also scrapped labels describing news organizations as government-funded or state-affiliated after weeks of sparring between them.
These labels that had been added to accounts — including the British Broadcasting Corp., National Public Radio in the US, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. as well as accounts affiliated with China state-backed broadcaster CGTN among others — were deleted as of Friday morning.
Many of the news outlets had complained that the label unfairly implied their journalism was influenced by governments. The BBC protested being described as “government-funded,” arguing it’s funded by individual viewers through a fee, which is set by the government. NPR stopped posting on the site on April 12 in protest over the labels. A few days later, CBC paused its Twitter activity, with a spokesman arguing Twitter’s designation undermined its work.
Musk changed the rules on verification in part to spur an uptick in subscriptions, which Twitter’s billionaire owner has said is key to future revenue growth for the platform. Currently, only about 1% of its users subscribe to the program, called Twitter Blue.
But the changes seem to have alienated many businesses and users. Advertising revenue declined by 50% between October and March, he tweeted last month. Despite attempts to win back advertisers, many have not returned. The new checkmark strategy has caused some digital marketing businesses to change strategy.
Companies that wish to advertise on Twitter are now required to pay for verification or reach a minimum monthly spend on ads, the social media platform told advertisers this week.
As of Friday, advertising will only be available to verified accounts, including individuals who pay $8 per month for Twitter Blue and “Verified Organizations” that pay $1,000 for a gold or gray check mark. Businesses that already spend $1,000 a month on ads will also be allowed to continue and will be given a gold check mark, the company wrote in an email seen by Bloomberg.
The company said it was part of its wider strategy to remove fake accounts and bots, and “elevate the quality of content on Twitter and enhance your experience as a user and advertiser.”