Twitter added blue checkmarks to a number of celebrity Twitter accounts, saying it paid for Twitter Blue subscription and verified their phone numbers, despite the celebrities having died.
Kobe Bryant, Chadwick Boseman and Anthony Bourdain were among the accounts to have the Twitter Blue subscription added, in a weekend that saw further confusion at the social media giant under Elon Musk’s ownership.
Musk has been trying to spark interest in Twitter Blue’s paid subscription model by stripping verified legacy accounts of their blue ticks if they refuse to pay.
Costs to maintain checkmarks range from $8 (7.26) per month for individual web users to an initial price of $1,000 (€908) per month for verifying an organization, plus $50 (€45.40 ) monthly for each affiliate or employee account.
Under Twitter’s old leadership, verified accounts indicated that the user was remarkable in some way and that their identity had been confirmed by the platform.
Now the blue check only means that an account has paid for it and verified that it has access to a phone number – identities are not verified.
This has caused a marked increase in representation on the platform.
Verified against their will
Amid continued confusion about verification on the platform, some Twitter users pointed out that they were getting blue checkmarks despite not paying for or confirming a phone number.
These accounts included well-known personalities such as author Stephen King and actor Ian McKellen.
Others have apparently been forcibly given a blue check for publicly mocking the system, such as journalist Matt Binder, who said he was unable to remove Twitter Blue status for which he hadn’t paid.
The hashtag #BlockTheBlue trended over the weekend as a campaign to block anyone with a Twitter Blue subscription gained traction. An @BlockTheBlue account – which had 39,000 followers – was suspended by Twitter.
Accounts with blue checkmarks that haven’t paid them continue to advertise that they haven’t paid them, apparently not wanting people to think they’ve paid the platform any money.
And many accounts that have been dormant since their owners’ deaths have also received blue checkmarks with a label that read, “This account is verified because they’re signed up for Twitter Blue and have verified their phone number.”
Government organizations impersonated
While Twitter now offers gold checks for “verified organizations” and gray checks for government organizations and their affiliates, it wasn’t always clear why some accounts had them and others didn’t.
Fake accounts claiming to represent Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the city’s Department of Transportation and the Illinois Department of Transportation all began sharing messages early Friday falsely claiming that Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive – a thoroughfare main – will close to private traffic starting next month.
The fake accounts used the same photos, bio text, and homepage links as the real ones.
Genuine Lightfoot and transit agency accounts didn’t have a blue or gray check as of Friday. Lightfoot’s office said the city was aware of the fake accounts and was “working with Twitter to resolve the matter.” At least one was suspended on Friday.
The blue check debacle is just the latest in a string of troubles for the social media giant since Tesla and SpaceX CEO Musk bought it for $44 billion (€40 billion) last year.
Twitter responded to a request for comment with a poop emoji.