Some VIP Twitter users woke up Saturday expecting to have lost their coveted blue checkmarks in a purge previously announced by Elon Musk. Instead, Twitter appeared to target a single account of a major Musk doesn’t like the post and changed the language on his site in a way that hides why users are verified.
Twitter had said it would “start phasing out” blue checks awarded under its old verification system, which emphasized protecting high-profile users at risk of impersonation, on April 1. To stay verified, Musk said, users would have to pay $8. per month to join the platform’s Twitter Blue subscription service, which has allowed Accounts to pay verification since December.
Most legacy blue check holders discovered this weekend that their check marks had not disappeared, Instead, a new label had been added that read: “This account is verified because it is subscribed to Twitter Blue or is a legacy verified account.” The language, which appears when users click the check mark, leaves it unclear whether the verified accounts are actually notable people or simply users who paid to join Twitter Blue.
But one high-profile account lost its blue check over the weekend: the main account of the New York Times, which had previously told CNN it would not pay for verification.
After an account that often interacts with Musk posted a meme this weekend about the Times refusing to pay for verification, Musk responded in a cheep saying, “Oh, okay, then we’ll take it off.” Musk then lashed out at the Times (just the latest example of the billionaire criticizing journalists or media outlets) in a series of tweets who stated that the outlet’s coverage is boring and “propagandistic.”
The weekend’s moves are just the latest example of how Twitter is creating confusion and whiplash among users over feature changes, and in this case, not just any user, but many of the most prominent accounts that have long been a key selling point for the platform. . He also highlights how Musk often seems to guide platform decisions more by whim than policy.
Although the New York Times’ main account lost its blue check, its other accounts, such as art, travel and books, remained verified. (It’s unclear why the New York Times doesn’t have a gold “organizations” flag, like the accounts of other news outlets, including the Associated Press and the Washington Post.) After the blue tick was removed, a New York Times spokesperson The York Times reiterated to CNN that it does not plan to pay for verification.
Twitter, which laid off most of its public relations staff last fall, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In another baffling move, Twitter’s bluebird logo at the top of the site was replaced on Monday with doge, the meme representing the dogecoin cryptocurrency, which Musk has promoted. Dogecoin price soared 20% on Monday.
Musk has been threatening to remove “legacy” blue checkmarks from verified users under Twitter’s old system since shortly after he bought Twitter last fall.
In early November, Twitter launched the option for people who paid for its Twitter Blue subscription service to receive blue checks. The show was quickly discontinued after being plagued by a wave of corporate and celebrity copycats, and relaunched in December.
Twitter also launched a color-coded verification system with different colored checks for businesses and government entities, but Musk went on to say that individual users would eventually have to pay for the blue checks.
In the days before the blue check purge that wasn’t the case, Prominent users such as actor William Shatner and anti-bullying activist Monica Lewinksy rejected the idea that as power users who draw attention to the site, they should have to pay for a feature that keeps them safe from impersonation.
By clouding why accounts are verified, the new label could make it easier for people to scam or impersonate high-profile users. Experts on inauthentic behavior have also said it’s not clear that reserving verification for paid users will reduce the number of bots on the site, an issue Musk has raised on and off over the past year.
Musk, for his part, has previously presented changes to Twitter’s verification system as a way to “treat everyone equally.”
“There shouldn’t be a different standard for celebrities,” he said in a tweet last week. The paid feature could also generate revenue, which could help Musk, who is in significant debt after purchasing Twitter for $44 billion.
Musk also said last week that starting April 15, only verified accounts would be recommended in users’ “For You” feeds along with accounts they follow.
–CNN’s Oliver Darcy contributed to this report.