Today was the end of an era for many people when they discovered that Twitter Inc. owner Elon Musk had finally made good on his promise to remove the platform’s blue checkmarks.
It has been known for a while this was coming, although Musk’s plan to take away people’s precious verification badges of honor has always been controversial. After Musk took over the company, he said “legacy” verified badges were undemocratic. Pre-Musk Twitter had given them to people or organizations deemed well-known enough to be verified. The point was to show the people this was the real-deal account, not some impersonator.
Today, some 420,000 accounts belonging to journalists, politicians, business leaders, sports stars and celebrities saw their checkmarks disappear. Some of the now-checkmarkless accounts belong to people such as Pope Francis, Kim Kardashian, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, as well as a number of U.S. politicians.
The move has little to do with democracy and more to do with Musk trying to make money out of a company that has famously been seemingly at odds with the concept of making a profit. Twitter now offers “Twitter Blue,” which will verify a user for $8. Musk has also laid off a huge chunk of the company, saying in numerous interviews that many of the staff simply weren’t needed.
His $8 tax has not gone down well with many high-profile users, who have joined in a chorus of people saying they refuse to fork it out. But some who lost their badge explained they had their reasons for not paying the money, other than a loss of face. Human Rights Watch said some people would not be able to afford the fee, including “human rights activists.” That is highly unlikely, even in the less developed world, but HRW added that Twitter “risks becoming more like a pennysaver circular of micro-advertisers and every crackpot who has a loopy opinion and 8 bucks to spare.”
This storm in a teacup grew even bigger when it was discovered that some people were handed their Twitter Blue badges for free. Musk then announced he had paid for some himself, presumably because he wants Twitter to make money – though it’s hardly a democratic kindness.
The author Stephen King was one of those people. He tweeted today his surprise at receiving the mark without paying for anything or verifying his identity. Musk replied, “You’re welcome namaste.” LeBron James was another person who was the focus of Musk’s largesse after James said he simply would not pay up.
Photo: Alexander Shatov/Unsplash
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