The blue checkmarks that formerly designated a select group of Twitter users as reliable — or at least likely themselves — have disappeared. Only a few hours have passed since the so-called heritage blue checks started to flicker and eventually vanish, but mayhem has already taken over.
Twitter check havers and have-nots were already taking sides about what the new blue checks would entail and who would be willing to pay for them before the great unchecking. But now that they're gone, everything is even more unclear than we had anticipated.
LeBron James made the infamous announcement last month that he will not be using Twitter's premium service, despite his notoriety there and his audience of more than 50 million followers. But as blue checks started to disappear in large numbers, James' check stood out in a noticeable way. Author Stephen King, who has previously disagreed with Musk on the subject, kept his blue tick as well and promptly tweeted to clarify that he hasn't changed his mind about not paying.
So what is happening? The Verge revealed that Twitter stepped in to prevent James from the great unchecking by offering a free account upgrade, regardless of James' wishes, it seems. King reportedly received the same treatment.
Blue checks that Twitter has given away for free misrepresent those users as paying subscribers, which only serves to further complicate the situation and make it less favourable for Twitter.
On Thursday afternoon, Musk acknowledged his involvement in the mysterious blue checks, saying he was "paying for a few personally." (This is a strange phrase given that the blue checks are a toggleable incorporeal feature rather than, say, a meal on the house.)
Not everyone is receiving the royal treatment, even though James and King, two celebrities who have previously criticised Twitter, got to keep their blue checks. Along with Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian, and Oprah, the pope himself received a downgrading.Taylor Swift and Rihanna both held onto their blue checks, although it's unclear at this time if they're making payments or are merely other receivers of Musk's complimentary blue badges..
Leaving aside Musk's unpredictable actions, the blue tick on Twitter now denotes something entirely different. The small blue emblem, a first in the company's history, now only denotes that an account has paid for the company's monthly subscription service, an idea conceived by Elon Musk himself. The blue tick is certainly not something that Musk's adversaries want to pay for on a monthly basis, but when he made the paid option available, his fervent followers jumped at the chance.
Here, Musk might make a mistake, which is evident. The value of owning a blue cheque has decreased as a result of removing them from everyone (or nearly everyone). The badges may now be perceived by normal users as an unfavourable indicator of an account's reliability — the mark of crypto frauds and Musk acolytes rather than top journalists and celebrities. Practically speaking, it's already lot more challenging to go through the platform's material and determine what is pertinent or helpful than it was simply a few hours ago.
It's been like three hours (checks watch), and already surfing Twitter requires swimming through a confusing haze of impersonators, authentic but checkless accounts, desperate Elon supporters searching for salvation, and prominent users falsely represented as proud new paid customers. For the time being, or possibly always, anyone who used to go to Twitter for news, celebrity updates, or even customer service may want to turn elsewhere.
It's only fitting that we conclude today's Twitter hysteria with some sage advice from a man who is maybe Ice-T (it's hard to be certain).