The blue checkmarks that once christened an elite echelon of Twitter users as trustworthy, or at least likely themselves, are long gone. It’s only been a few hours since the so-called legacy blue checks flickered and finally disappeared, but chaos already reigns.
Before the big demarcation, check holders and check holders on Twitter were already taking sides about what the new blue checks would mean and what kind of person would be willing to pay for them. But now that they’re gone, everything is more confusing than we anticipated.
Last month, LeBron James declared famous that you wouldn’t be paying for Twitter’s premium service despite its prominence there and its audience of more than 50 million followers. But a few hours after the blue checks disappeared en masse, James’s check visibly remained. Author Stephen King, who previously clashed with Musk over the issue, also withheld the blue check from him and quickly took to Twitter to clarify that he has not deviated from his decision not to pay.
So what is going on? The Verge confirmed that Twitter stepped in to save James from the big uncheck, extending a free account upgrade whether or not James wanted it apparently. King appears to have received the same treatment.
To make the situation even more confusing, and even less flattering for Twitter, the blue checks the company has given out for free misrepresent those users as paying customers.
Musk confirmed his role in the mysterious blue checks on Thursday afternoon, noting that he was “paying some personally.” (Weird wording considering the blue checks are a disembodied feature that turns on or off and doesn’t say, sandwich on the house.)
While James and King, two celebrities who have previously criticized Twitter, are holding on to their blue checks, not everyone gets the royal treatment. The Pope himself was demoted along with Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian and Oprah. Rihanna and Taylor Swift managed to hang on to their blue checks, but it’s not immediately clear if they’re paying or just other recipients of Musk’s complimentary blue badges.
Musk’s erratic interventions aside, the blue check now indicates something very different on Twitter. For the first time in its history, the small blue badge means only that an account has paid for the company’s monthly subscription service, devised by Musk himself. Musk’s detractors obviously aren’t willing to pay the blue check on a monthly basis, but his frenzied fans jumped at the chance when he opened up the paid feature.
Musk’s potential mistakes here are obvious. By taking blue checks away from everyone (or almost everyone), the value of having the blue check has collapsed. For regular users, the badges can now serve as an inverted sign of an account’s integrity: the mark of crypto scams and Musk acolytes rather than journalists and top celebrities. On a practical level, it is already much more difficult to analyze what information on the platform is relevant or useful than it was just a couple of hours ago.
It’s been (he checks the clock) about three hours, and browsing Twitter somehow already involves being immersed in a disorienting miasma of imitatorslegit still accounts without checksElon’s desperate adherents penny pincher for the release and famous users misleadingly presented as proud new paid subscribers. People who used to turn to Twitter for news, celebrity updates, or even customer service might want to look elsewhere for now, or maybe forever.
It’s fitting that we cap off today’s Twitter mayhem with some words of wisdom from a guy who’s probably Ice-T (hard to say for sure).