Musk removes blue checks, Twitter shrugs

Artwork: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Elon Musk Thursday said that he personally pays to keep certain users verified on Twitter, even when those users have indicated they don’t want that status under his new blue checkmark system as a subscription benefit.

State of play: Earlier Thursday, Twitter finally began removing most blue ticks from hundreds of thousands of accounts belonging to celebrities, journalists and other public figures that had been verified by Twitter before Musk changed the rules.

  • Because Musk had been talking about the move for so long and coming up with so many different versions of the new system — and also because so many accounts had already indicated that they wouldn’t pay to stay verified – many Twitter users ignored the changes.

But in a surprise twist, some famous users who said they wouldn’t pay for blue checks remained verified.

  • The edge reported that a Twitter employee emailed Lebron James offering him a “free subscription” to Twitter Blue, despite James previously saying he wouldn’t pay to stay verified.
  • Musk tweeted that he pays to keep James, William Shatner and Stephen King verified, although all three have previously indicated that they don’t want to pay to stay verified.

why is it important: Musk argued that a pay-for-verification system is more “democratic” than the previous system, which helped the public know which accounts were genuine, but some users were felt to be elitist.

  • With the arbitrary “free” plan, however, Musk appears to be playing favorites himself.

The big picture: Twitter’s old system gave users a basis of trust in the identities of well-known accounts. Now, “verified” simply indicates a paying customer.

  • Many news outlets that said they would not pay for Blue subscriptions argued that the blue tick no longer had any authority.

Yes, but: That doesn’t mean it can’t be profitable for those who want to pay $8 a month.

  • Companies and news outlets that pay could see a much less crowded field without having to pay for more expensive advertising.

What to watch: Without a system of verification of notable accounts, Twitter users will have to decide for themselves which accounts are real and authoritative and when they read a parody.

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