Elon Musk has admitted that he is paying for some prominent Twitter accounts to keep their blue ticks, as the social media platform launched a pick that removed the verified status of many famous names, including Beyoncé, Ronaldo and Paul McCartney.
The owner of Twitter confirmed the gesture after it emerged that writer Stephen King, actor William Shatner and basketball star LeBron James had kept their ticks, which give verified status to accounts, despite not signing up for Twitter Blue. , the site’s subscription service.
On Thursday, Musk followed through on a long-threatened promise to remove the blue tick from some 400,000 legacy verified accounts unless they signed up for Blue, which costs more than $8 a month in the US, £9.60 in the UK. and at $13 in Australia. .
The overnight sacrifice meant that many famous names, with millions of followers, lost their blue check status. Names now without verified status include Beyoncé, Ronaldo, Kim Kardashian, Sir Paul McCartney, JK Rowling and Donald Trump. Twitter now has zero legacy verified accounts according to Travis Brown, a software developer who has been tracking Twitter’s subscription service, down from 400,000 at the start of the month, with blue subscriptions now at an estimated 630,000.
Under Musk’s plans for Twitter Blue, subscriber replies will gain more prominence in users’ default For You feed, while tweets you engage with will also be boosted. However, Twitter will continue to display the accounts people follow in their For You feed, whether or not they are Twitter Blue subscribers. Musk has said the switch to payment verification is necessary to root out automated bot accounts and generate an alternative revenue stream to advertising, which accounts for the bulk of Twitter’s revenue.
Gary Lineker, the Match of the Day host and prominent tweeter, still had a blue check as of Friday morning and was among those who appeared to have paid for verified status.
Tech news site The Verge reported Thursday that a Twitter employee had recently emailed LeBron James to “extend a free subscription to Twitter Blue for his account, @kingjames, on behalf of Elon Musk.” James, who has more than 52 million followers, has been a vocal opponent of paying for verification, claiming last month that he “isn’t paying” for a blue check.
King, the billionaire writer of The Shining and It, expressed his bewilderment that he now had a verified account telling followers who clicked on his blue check that he was a Twitter Blue subscriber. He wrote: “My Twitter account says I signed up for Twitter Blue. I don’t. Musk, indicating that he had intervened on King’s behalf to help him keep his status verified, replied: “You’re welcome, namaste.”
Official organizations have replaced their blue checks with an “official” gray mark, including the Pope Francis account.
Bellingcat, the investigative news outlet, said it had been offered a gray mark as its founder, Eliot Higgins, said he hadn’t paid his own blue check. He added, “I hope they ask me to pay for it in the near future.”
However, some official sites, such as the US Citizenship and Immigration Services account, did not have a gray mark as of Friday morning.
There was also confusion over fake accounts, an issue that dogged Musk’s attempts to introduce a verification system, with a fake New York City government account tweeting on the authentic New York City government account that ” THIS account is the only authentic Twitter account that represents and is run by the New York City government.” The fake account was later suspended.