Blue Check Confusion

Blue Check Confusion

I got my verified Twitter check mark about eight years ago while working as a cub reporter at a digital news outlet. I did nothing to earn it other than show up to work one day and Oh, hey, would you look at that! I’m verified. Sweet!

(Technically, the check mark was white, surrounded by blue, but colloquially they’ve become known as blue checks and I’m not about to squabble over semantics now.)

It feels a little pathetic to reflect on how excited I was about getting a check mark, but that was still the era when digital journalism was fighting to be taken seriously. Getting that check, which denoted that Twitter had confirmed the identity of the account’s owner and operator, gave me credibility.

Last week, after much throat clearing, Twitter started removing the check marks from previously verified accounts whose users had declined to pay a fee — which was most of them. Now, anyone can be “verified” on Twitter. It’ll cost you $8 a month and comes with basically none of the usefulness that verification used to offer because Twitter is no longer confirming that people are who they say they are.

The change in verification is one of the most visible effects that Elon Musk has had on Twitter since he bought it last year. Information on the platform, once considered indispensable for following breaking news, has become increasingly unreliable. And for users who rely on Twitter to follow celebrities or other figures, the verification change is part of a shift that will make many prominent users less visible because they declined to pay to retain their check marks.

By the time Musk announced that all previously verified users would be losing their status, a blue check was nothing to be proud of. Some users are now calling it “the dreaded mark” or that “stinking badge,” my colleagues Callie Holtermann and Lora Kelley reported last week.

The icon makes its owner appear “desperate for validation,” according to the rapper Doja Cat. Twitter also restored blue checks for popular users who didn’t want them, including LeBron James, Bette Midler and Stephen King. The model and internet personality Chrissy Teigen called her blue check a form of “punishment.”

I would argue that the blue check was never as covetable as Musk thought it was. (He has called it a “lords & peasants system.”) For me and many other journalists, it was essentially just a tool to prove to sources I was who I said I was. No different than a press badge or a business card.

Why should anyone care about the check mark changes, especially if their job doesn’t involve sliding into DMs? Twitter’s check mark system wasn’t perfect, but it did make it easier for users to figure out if tweets were coming from a real person or organization, or from, say, an account pretending to be Eli Lilly and promising free insulin for all. (This really happened in November 2022, tanking the company’s stock.)

Now users will have to work harder to make sure people are who they purport to be. I can attest that it’s harder than it sounds.

But that’s not to say Musk’s new system isn’t useful in its own way. The new check marks have instead become an inversion of the old. If I see you have one, I immediately don’t care what you have to say.

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  • Clunkier and less predictable: How Musk has changed Twitter.

  • The Supreme Court agreed to decide whether elected officials violate the First Amendment when they block people on social media.

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Carlson’s rise as a TV personality was mostly a result of the established and loyal Fox News audience, The New Yorker’s Jay Caspian Kang argues. But his ideology could prove more influential and lasting than any cult of personality, Jason Zengerle writes for The New York Times.

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Read the full issue.

  • Biden will host President Ferdinand Marco of the Philippines tomorrow.

  • Speaker Kevin McCarthy will address Israel’s Parliament tomorrow.

  • The Met Gala is tomorrow evening.

  • Nominations for the 76th Tony Awards will be announced on Tuesday.

  • Federal Reserve officials meet on Wednesday and are expected to increase interest rates.

  • Cinco de Mayo is on Friday

  • King Charles III’s coronation will be held on Saturday at Westminster Abbey. Read more about the coronation.

  • The Kentucky Derby, the first leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown, is on Saturday.

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