In a sudden U-turn, Elon Musk has backtracked on his plans to remove Twitter’s blue verification badges from non-subscriber accounts. This comes after celebrities including Sir Ian McKellen and Richard Osman claimed that their profiles had been reinstated despite refusing to pay for the social network’s monthly subscription service. Previously, Mr Musk had deleted blue ticks from accounts that had not signed up for the subscription service, including accounts belonging to famous figures such as the Pope and the Prince and Princess of Wales. The sudden change resulted in accounts belonging to deceased people, including New York chef and presenter Anthony Bourdain and Brazilian footballer Pelé, becoming verified. While accounts with roughly 1 million subscribers had their blue check marks returned, some popular celebrities such as Ryan Reynolds lacked a check mark.
Twitter users with the check mark on their profile were marked as being “subscribed to Twitter Blue,” which costs $8 per month. Before Mr Musk’s U-turn, only around 5% of accounts that had previously been verified had signed up to the paid service, according to researcher Travis Brown. Under Twitter’s new policy, subscribers will get greater visibility for their Tweets, see fewer adverts, and be able to send longer posts.
The chaotic attempt to boost subscriptions comes after Mr Musk sacked more than half of Twitter’s staff following his $44bn takeover of the social network last year. Previously, Twitter verified accounts of notable users, celebrities, and organizations on a largely ad hoc basis. However, Mr Musk condemned the process as a “lords and peasants system” and claimed that encouraging users to verify their accounts and pay for subscriptions would help “defeat the bots and trolls” on social media.