Twitter’s Shift to Paid Blue Checks Turned Utterly Chaotic

Some celebrities who didn't pay for verification still got verified. It was weird.

Twitter logo
Twitter's verification program is at a strange juncture.
Avishek Das/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

One of the hallmarks of Elon Musk’s time as the owner of Twitter has been a shift away from the platform’s use of blue checkmarks to denote celebrities, organizations and other public figures. Instead, Musk has pushed for the checkmarks to indicate paid subscribers, with a significant number of big names — including LeBron James — making it clear that they had no interest in paying for Twitter.

Then things got weird. Specifically, a number of celebrities who had made it clear that they weren’t paying for a blue check continued to have a blue check — including James, Stephen King and William Shatner. The late Kobe Bryant’s account also retained a blue check, which drew some attention — especially as it pertains to the default message that verification included the account holder verifying their phone number.

In what might have been the most emblematically weird moment of the whole situation, Stephen King asked that the blue check he’d been given go instead to the Prytula Foundation, an organization that provides support to civilian and military concerns in Ukraine. This, in turn, led to a particularly Musk-friendly corner of Twitter to lash out at King for being — I guess — insufficiently deferential to Musk. And while this included some random accounts, some high-profile names figured in there — including Piers Morgan, of all people.

It also led to surreal moments in which various celebrities discussed how best to rid themselves of their unwanted blue checkmarks. Perhaps the best summary of the whole situation came from Bette Midler, who tweeted, “Yes, Elon gave me back my blue check but I didn’t pay for it. Does that make me a good guy or a bad guy? I’m so confused.”

Further complicating matters? Reportedly, the total number of paid signups for Twitter Blue did not exactly smash existing records.

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This chaos is not the only controversy Twitter has been embroiled in in the past week. More alarmingly, the social media network also relaxed some of its guidelines about hateful content relating to transgender people — a decision that has understandably led to concerns about increased hate speech and the safety of the platform for its users. The current era of Twitter is far from boring — but some uneventful weeks would be especially welcome right now.

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