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Twitter begins purge of blue checks

Billionaire Elon Musk has followed through on a plan to remove verification marks from users who don’t pay a subscription fee

The prized blue checkmarks that used to set apart prominent Twitter commentators from online commoners have begun to disappear from the social media platform, as owner Elon Musk pushes forward with a plan to remove the verification tags for users who decline to pay a subscription fee.

The Twitter purge started on Thursday, as accounts that even boast millions of followers – ranging from Pope Francis to professional celebrity Kim Kardashian to former President Donald Trump – lost their blue badges. Other big-name users who are no longer verified on the platform include Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, pop singer Justin Bieber, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, and soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo.

Musk, who acquired Twitter for $44 billion last October, rolled out a subscription service at $8 per month last December, allowing users to pay for verification. Legacy checkmark holders lost their exclusivity, given that anyone could buy one, and some complained that the policy change would help online impersonators. Some critics of the plan, such as former White House intern Monica Lewinsky – made famous by her affair with then-President Bill Clinton – asked her followers to connect with her on Instagram and “most of the other new places that have real verification under my name.”

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Prominent account holders who still had their blue checks as of Thursday evening included former President Barack Obama, basketball star LeBron James, and pop singer Taylor Swift. Prominent public office holders, such as US President Joe Biden and Indian President Narendra Modi, have been given gray checkmarks denoting a verified government account. The accounts of at least some government agencies and public entities, including US Citizenship and Immigration Services, do not yet have gray checks.

Musk has argued that under Twitter’s old verification program, blue checkmarks were granted through a “corrupt and nonsensical” system. The Twitter Blue subscription service is a way of “treating everyone equally,” he said. “There shouldn’t be a different standard for celebrities.” Requiring users to pay for verification also may help eliminate spam and bot accounts.

Twitter said previously that it would begin removing legacy blue checkmarks from unsubscribed accounts on April 1. Musk later pushed the date back to April 20, apparently alluding to 420, a slang term for marijuana. Many users of the drug celebrate their love of cannabis on April 20, and Musk frequently makes joking references to 420.

April 21, 2023 at 12:21PM

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