Twitter snatches away blue checkmarks – except for a chosen few

A hallmark status symbol has been snatched away from Twitter users not willing to pay for it – unless the company’s CEO says otherwise.

The blue checkmark, considered a standard feature across social media platforms to verify high-profile users’ identities, has become a subscriber-only benefit on Twitter.

The status symbol now costs $13–$19 monthly or $135–$194.99 annually, depending on what type of mobile device you use, as part of the platform’s Twitter Blue subscription service.

Twitter Blue also gives subscribers extra features like the ability to edit tweets after posting, or to see about 50 per cent less ads.

Official organisations – including businesses, governments, and non-profits – and their representatives will continue to be verified by grey or gold checkmarks for the base subscription fee of $75 per month or $1500 per year.

Other big names, including smaller businesses and organisations, celebrities, and social media influencers, woke up on Friday (AEST) to see their accounts stripped of their coveted blue checkmarks.

Elon Musk’s petty act

Some high-profile users who have refused to become Twitter Blue subscribers were scratching their heads as to why they still had their blue checkmarks on Friday.

“My Twitter account says I’ve subscribed to Twitter Blue. I haven’t. My Twitter account says I’ve given a phone number. I haven’t,” author Stephen King tweeted, after previously claiming Twitter should pay him to use the platform rather than vice versa.

He got a “you’re welcome namaste” in reply from Twitter CEO Elon Musk, who admitted to paying for three accounts personally; those belonging to Stephen King, basketball player LeBron James and actor William Shatner.

All three had previously criticised Mr Musk’s plans to monetise the blue checkmarks.

In March, Mr Musk responded to Shatner’s complaining tweet with, “There shouldn’t be a different standard for celebrities [in my opinion].”

That idea apparently doesn’t apply to celebrities who disagree with the Tesla boss.

New blue checkmark criteria

Mr Musk, who has embarked on a series of divisive cost-cutting manoeuvres such as mass layoffs and auctioning of headquarter assets for the company to break-even, has long been keen to start the subscription service.

His first attempt to force subscribers to pay for the blue checkmark backfired last year when users began impersonating famous accounts, including Mr Musk’s.

This week’s relaunch of the subscriber-only blue checkmark seemingly aims to prevent a repeat of the avalanche of impersonations by including a vetting process to ensure accounts meet specific criteria, including:

  • Having a ‘complete’ account, including a display name and profile photo
  • Being ‘active’ on Twitter within the past 30 days
  • Having a confirmed phone number and an account older than 30 days
  • Being ‘non-deceptive’, meaning the account must have no signs of being misleading or engaging in spam, and must have no recent changes to the profile photo, display name, or username (future changes to the latter three factors will result in a temporary loss of the blue checkmark while the account is verified by Twitter).

It remains to be seen how effective the vetting process will be at weeding out spam and impersonation accounts.

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