Twitter CEO Elon Musk is demanding that celebrities, journalists, and other verified Twitter users pay up to $11 a month or lose their blue check marks, which were previously verified for free. Musk purchased Twitter for $44 billion in October and has been trying to boost the social media platform’s revenue by pushing more people to pay for a premium subscription. However, the move has also been motivated by Musk’s belief that the blue verification marks have become an undeserved or “corrupt” status symbol for elite personalities and news reporters. Musk is also keen to tackle impersonation, which he believes has increased since Twitter began verifying profiles for free 14 years ago.
Twitter marked profiles with a free blue check mark to verify politicians, activists, and people who suddenly find themselves in the news, as well as little-known journalists at small publications, as an extra tool to curb misinformation coming from accounts that are impersonating people. Yet, Musk is adamant that the verification system is unfairly favoring the elite, whilst also allowing imposters to spread rumors and conspiracies that could move markets or harm democracies around the world.
Some long-time Twitter users, such as 92-year-old Star Trek legend William Shatner and Monica Lewinsky, have balked at buying the premium service. Lewinsky tweeted a screenshot of all the people impersonating her, including at least one who appears to have paid for a blue check mark. Shatner also complained about the changes, tweeting “Now you’re telling me that I have to pay for something you gave me for free?”. However, Musk responded that there shouldn’t be a different standard for celebrities and “it’s more about treating everyone equally”.
Currently, verified users who have not paid the premium fee, which includes Beyoncé, Stephen King, Barack and Michelle Obama, Taylor Swift, Tucker Carlson, Drake, and Musk himself, have messages appended to their profile saying it is a “legacy verified account. It may or may not be notable.”
The blue check mark verification system has been in place on Twitter for about 14 years. It was implemented to combat impersonation, especially of politicians and activists, and to help prevent misinformation from being spread by accounts that were pretending to be someone they were not.
While the system has been successful in some ways, Musk has said that it has also become an undeserved symbol of status for some individuals. In addition, there have been cases where verified accounts have been hacked or impersonated, which has caused confusion and led to the spread of misinformation.
Musk’s push to get more verified users to pay for their verification has been met with some resistance. Many users feel that they should not have to pay for something that was previously offered for free. However, Musk has argued that it is more about treating everyone equally and ensuring that the verification system is being used appropriately.
Twitter has faced criticism in recent years for its handling of misinformation on its platform. While the blue check mark verification system is just one tool in the fight against misinformation, it is an important one. By ensuring that only verified accounts are able to post certain types of content, Twitter can help to prevent the spread of false information and protect its users from potential harm.