Elon Musk’s Twitter has stirred up a new wave of confusion. After the multibillionaire tech baron made good on his threat to yank Twitter blue check-marks from celebrities who weren’t paying him $8 per month last week, the social network has reinstated the badge for many — including on accounts of people who have died.
The Musk-owned social network on April 20 revoked verified blue check-mark status from thousands of accounts belonging to celebrities, athletes, politicians and other “notable” figures granted under the company’s previous ownership. The hope was that taking away the “free” Twitter blue check-mark would boost revenue from subscriptions to Twitter Blue, while Musk has also framed it as democratizing the user-verification process.
Twitter pulled the “legacy” check-marks for accounts including some of the most-followed celebs on the site, including Katy Perry, Cristiano Ronaldo, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian, Selena Gomez, Justin Timberlake, Shakira, Jennifer Lopez, Oprah Winfrey and Beyoncé. Within a few days, all of those accounts once again had the blue check — and the description on the badges says that each account “is verified because they are subscribed to Twitter Blue and verified their phone number.” (The implication is that they are paying subscribers, but that appears to be inaccurate in many if not all of these cases.)
In its about-face to restore the legacy verified check-marks, Twitter reinstalled them on accounts for deceased individuals including Chadwick Boseman, Kobe Bryant, Anthony Bourdain, Paul Walker, Barbara Walters, Bob Saget, Kirstie Alley, Michael Jackson and soccer great Pelé (h/t to the Verge, which noted the phenomenon). Twitter’s wording on the blue checks for these accounts also claims they are “subscribed to Twitter Blue.”
The end result: It’s unclear which accounts are actually paying Twitter for the badge. Musk claimed that he is “personally” paying for Twitter Blue on behalf of LeBron James, Stephen King and William Shatner, each of whom had complained about the move to charge for verification.
Meanwhile, Twitter also had erroneously granted a verified gold check-mark to a parody Disney Junior UK account that has tweeted racial slurs and misinformation. In addition, the New York Times’ primary Twitter account has regained its check-mark, after Musk had gleefully removed it (citing the publication’s refusal to pay for verified status).
Actor Charlie Sheen, for one, was thrilled to have his blue check-mark returned after personally beseeching Musk for its return. On Friday, April 21, Sheen had penned this tweet: “dear @elonmusl i’m sorry your fancy rocket exploded in spectacular fashion. I’m certain you’ll build an even bigger and more explody one. now, may i please have my blue check back? it would mean a lot to me.” Wish granted: On Saturday, Sheen wrote in response to the blue check-mark coming back to his account, “oh my! it’s like Xmas and my birthday all at once! @elonmusk i’m flushed with gratitude. Rock Star move, good sir.”
Also Saturday, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman commented on the reappearance of his blue check-mark, tweeting, “I had nothing to do with that, and am definitely not paying.” Musk replied to Krugman with a photo of a bawling baby.
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