Twitter reinstates the “Blue Tick” for celebrities without charging the social network’s famous users. However, the decision to reinstate the “verified” status without distinguishing between paid-for and free users has drawn criticism for false advertising. The boilerplate disclaimer for those users incorrectly states that their status was granted “because they are subscribed to Twitter Blue.”
On Friday, April 20, the social network discontinued its previous account verification mechanism, a date that was ostensibly picked due to its significance in cannabis culture. As a result, all “legacy” users lost the blue checkmark that signified their accounts were authentic.
However, the action, which only displayed a checkmark for users who had paid for Twitter’s membership service, had unintended ramifications for Elon Musk, the social network’s owner and CEO.
The vast majority of pre-existing verified users continued using the site rather than being encouraged to pay the subscription price, which starts at $8 per month. Less than 500 of the 400,000 legacy users joined up, while nearly as many individuals simultaneously discontinued their subscriptions, according to publicly available data, resulting in a net income boost of under $300 per month.
Because of this, a blue tick on the social network quickly came to identify a user as having paid for the privilege, sparking a grassroots movement to “block the blue,” in which users vowed to block subscribers right away.
However, not all users who had a blue tick had paid for it themselves. On Friday, Musk disclosed that LeBron James, William Shatner, and Stephen King had each received one for free. With one notable exception—Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter and of the decentralized Twitter rival Bluesky, who did not receive a new verification mark—that number sharply increased over the weekend, with nearly every celebrity user with more than 1 million followers receiving a new blue tick.
However, the quick loss of social acceptance for possessing such a mark caused many users to deny their new status. Re-verified users revealed that their new status had come without paying for or seeking it, including Guardian columnist Owen Jones, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Twitter comic drill.
These statements cannot be made by other users. They all received “paid-for” certification, including the actor Paul Walker who passed away in 2013, the renowned chef Anthony Bourdain who passed away in 2018; and the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi who was assassinated by the Saudi government that same year.
Jones and Dril, among others, questioned if it was plausible to be in violation of the law to do this and label their accounts as having “paid for” a service they had not used. Jones questioned whether it wasn’t slander to falsely suggest that someone had bought a product connected to being a complete loser. Dril made light of the fact that Musk had “fired the people in charge of telling him it’s illegal”