Elon Musk had promised to take away all of Twitter’s blue checkmarks doled out to Hollywood stars, professional athletes, business leaders, authors and journalists unless they start buying a monthly subscription to the social media service.
Musk’s goal was to shove the advertising-dependent platform he bought for $44bn last year into a pay-to-play model – and maybe antagonise some enemies and fellow elites in the process.
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But the Saturday deadline passed and the blue checks are still there, many with a new disclaimer explaining they might have been paid for or they might not have been paid for — nobody but Twitter knows. The company did not return a request from the Associated Press to clarify its changing policies on Monday.
Blue tick or a ‘scarlet letter’?
Matt Darling has been on Twitter for about 15 years and never cared about not having a blue check, though he would get a kick out of whenever a verified account of “some real-world importance” started following him.
People on Twitter will joke about blue checks like they’re the aristocracy but I don’t think anyone actually thought that” except for Musk, Darling said
Now, Darling finally got a blue check after paying $11 last month to try out some of the features that come with a Twitter Blue subscription. But seeing it becoming more of a “scarlet letter” under Musk than a symbol of credibility, he used a technique to scrub the blue tick from his profile.
“Now it’s a signal of, you’re a person who’s not making good tweets so you have to pay for engagement,” said Darling, an economist at the centre-right Niskanen Center.
Musk has said that starting April 15, only verified accounts will appear in Twitter’s For You feed that recommends what tweets people see. Darling is planning to drop the subscription – it had too many glitches and he is not looking for more online clout.
“I don’t want Twitter to be pay-for-play. I want it to be a place where people writing interesting tweets are getting the engagement,” he said.
Instead of taking away the blue checkmarks, Twitter on Sunday began appending a new message to profiles: “This account is verified because it’s subscribed to Twitter blue or is a legacy verified account.”
Hence, high-profile verified users like singer Dionne Warwick still have their blue checks. But so does anyone who pays between $8 and $11 a month for a Twitter Blue subscription – and there is no way to tell the difference. (Warwick, for her part, made clear she will not be paying for a blue check because that money will “be going towards my extra hot lattes”.)
That hybrid solution was good enough for Star Trek actor William Shatner, who earlier baulked at signing up for a subscription but on Sunday tweeted to Musk: “I can live with this. This is a good compromise”. But it is not clear if this is a temporary or permanent measure.
Twitter did take away at least one verified check over the weekend: from the main account of the New York Times newspaper. The account, which has 55 million followers, was previously marked with a gold-coloured check for verified organisations.
But a user pointed out to Musk over the weekend that the newspaper had said publicly it would not be paying a monthly fee for checkmark status, so Musk said he would remove the mark and also disparaged the newspaper’s reporting.