Elon Musk and Twitter© GettyImages

Why Have All The Celebrities Lost Their Blue Ticks On Twitter?

On Friday morning, Twitter users awoke to a startling discovery—their coveted Blue Tick, once a symbol of authenticity, had vanished without a trace. The cause of this unexpected disappearance was none other than the CEO of Twitter, Elon Musk, who had previously announced that on April 20, all non-Twitter Blue subscribers would lose their verification badge.

In a shocking turn of events, Twitter has effectively redefined the meaning of the Blue Tick, transforming it from a symbol of verification to a premium badge available only to those willing to pay for Twitter Blue. Among the countless casualties of this change were notable figures such as Amitabh Bachchan, Alia Bhatt, Shah Rukh Khan, Virat Kohli, and numerous politicians and journalists who, until April 19, were proudly verified on Twitter.

Twitter revealed last month that it will begin to wind down its legacy verified programme that gave notable accounts such as government officials, celebrities and journalists a blue tick next to their name to signify it was their authentic accounts.

Musk has been a vocal critic of the verification system on Twitter, calling it a “corrupt” and “lords and peasants system” on multiple occasions. Following his takeover of the platform last year, he pledged to abolish the traditional blue tick and replace it with a paid verification service.

Earlier this month, the social media platform began implementing changes to the verification badge by stripping The New York Times’ official account of its blue tick, making it the only major outlet affected. The move came after a Twitter user claimed the news organisation had no intention of paying for verification. In response to the user’s comment, Musk stated, “Oh ok, we’ll take it off then.” He also took a jab at The New York Times in a separate tweet, suggesting that the “real tragedy” for the media group is that “their propaganda isn’t even interesting.”

With the launch of Twitter Blue, only users who are subscribed to it will be able to have a blue checkmark in front of their names along with access to some brand-new features. However, basketball star LeBron James and author Stephen King still retained their checkmarks despite publicly announcing that they would not sign up for the service. It was later informed by the CEO of the company that he is “personally paying” for the Twitter Blue subscriptions of some celebrities to keep their checkmark.

This came to light after Stephen King took to the microblogging website and said, “My Twitter account says I’ve subscribed to Twitter Blue. I haven’t. My Twitter account says I’ve given a phone number. I haven’t.” Replying to the same, Musk said, “You’re welcome namaste” along with a folded hands emoji.

In a separate tweet, the CEO informed, “I’m paying for a few personally.” Later, he tweeted, “Just Shatner, LeBron and King,” referring to Star Trek star William Shatner, who had last month complained about being forced to pay to keep his blue checkmark.

As of today, it seems as though a majority of legacy verified accounts have lost their blue ticks, including some high-profile users such as Beyoncé, Cristiano Ronaldo, Kim Kardashian and even the Pope. There were over 4 lakh legacy verified users on Twitter. Musk is hoping that by taking away their Blue Ticks, he would probably convert most of them to users who would pay around $8 - in India, between Rs 650-Rs 900 - to regain their coveted Blue badge.

This move has sparked controversy and criticism among Twitter users. Many have argued that the true purpose of verification has been undermined, as the paid badge has enabled fake or spam accounts to purchase the verification badge, thus making it harder for users to distinguish between genuine and fraudulent accounts. The elimination of the free verification process has also raised concerns about the potential for misinformation and impersonation of legitimate individuals and organisations.

A surge of fraudulent government accounts have now appeared on the platform including some posing as the US Internal Revenue Service during tax-filing season. Additionally, impostor accounts with altered profile photos and bios have emerged, such as a fake Jeff Bezos announcing the dissolution of Amazon and a fake John McCain tweeting about a plane crash (the Arizona senator passed away in 2018).

While Twitter had previously stated that government entities could obtain a free blue check through a special program, some have reported that they have been unable to do so. The rollout of the changes this week was chaotic to say the least. Numerous high-profile users took to the platform to assert they would not pay for blue check marks under the new policy, while others announced they would leave the platform entirely.

In 2009, Twitter launched the blue check mark system as a way for users to distinguish genuine accounts of public figures, including celebrities, politicians, companies and brands, news organisations, and other notable entities, from imposter or parody accounts. Until now, the company did not charge a fee for verification.