On April 1, Twitter announced that it will remove blue checks from “legacy verified” users who don’t sign up for a Twitter Blue subscription, a move that is part of new owner Elon Musk’s plan to make Twitter profitable. However, this scheme presents a problem, as anyone with $8 per month can now obtain a blue check, rendering the symbol less cool and exposing the platform to increased disinformation.
Twitter first launched its verification system in 2009 to protect celebrities from impersonation. The iconic blue check badge was created in response to former St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa’s lawsuit against Twitter after someone made an account impersonating him. Fast forward to 2023, and celebrities are a day away from losing their verification badges. Despite the fact that the badge was created to protect them, some celebrities are hesitant to pay for Twitter Blue, causing Musk to face backlash.
For instance, musician Ice Spice took to Twitter to express her doubts about the importance of the blue check. Although she has over 1.2 million followers, she believes that people won’t always click on her profile when they’re not sure she’s real. She has a point, as fake accounts can still proliferate on the platform, leading to misinformation.
Similarly, basketball superstar, LeBron James was one of the first celebrities to be impersonated during the first few days of Twitter’s new verification program, which allowed anyone to get a blue check instantly. Someone pretending to be James posted that he was requesting a trade from the Los Angeles Lakers back to the Cleveland Cavaliers, which wasn’t true, but the news spread anyway. James still doesn’t want to pay for a blue check, and he isn’t alone. Actor William Shatner tweeted at Musk, “Now you’re telling me that I have to pay for something you gave me for free?”
For some celebrities, it’s not about the $8. It’s about the principle of it. Michael Thomas, a wide receiver for the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, summed it up best: “Don’t nobody want that raggedy blue check no way anymore 😂”. Meanwhile, Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Darius Slay made an excellent point: If someone wants to impersonate him, then raging Philly fans will accidentally tweet their complaints to the wrong person.
Although impersonation is the biggest concern among celebrities, there are other benefits to Twitter Blue beyond the blue check. According to Musk, only verified users’ tweets will be shown in the “For You” feed. Nonetheless, some celebrities still don’t want to pay for verification, even if it means losing their blue check. Monica Lewinsky posted a set of screenshots showing what happens when you search her name on Twitter. There are already many impersonators, some of whom have a paid blue check. She added, “in what universe is this fair to people who can suffer consequences for being impersonated? a lie travels half way around the world before truth even gets out the door.”
Twitter Blue’s impact on celebrities is evident, and although they don’t want to pay for a blue check, some may be forced to do so for fear of impersonation. While it remains to be seen how Twitter Blue will impact the platform, it’s clear that celebrities are hesitant to embrace it.