Twitter stokes confusion as 'verified' drama continues

A new change makes it hard to tell who paid $8 for a subscription or not.

NurPhoto via Getty Images

Twitter's handling of verified users continues to shift after a number of developments over the weekend. Last week, Twitter said it would start winding down the legacy verified program on April 1st, but that was limited to specific cases including one called out by CEO Elon Musk. Meanwhile, a new report indicated that around 10,000 of the top-followed sites would retain their legacy checkmarks, even if they didn't subscribe to Twitter Blue. And now, Twitter is displaying the same status for both legacy verified and Twitter Blue subscribers, making it difficult to tell them apart.

Verified legacy Twitter users were expecting to lose their white-on-blue checkmarks over the weekend, after the Twitter Verified account tweeted it would start stripping them on April 1st. For the most part, however, that didn't happen, reportedly because un-verifying users is a painstaking manual process (Musk tweeted in a now-deleted message that legacy users would be given "a few weeks grace"). However, Twitter did strip a verified badge from The New York Times after the site said it wouldn't pay for Twitter Blue, in an apparent fit of pique by CEO Elon Musk. He later labeled the site as "propaganda."

Speaking of the NYT, it reported that 10,000 of the top-followed sites and 500 leading advertisers would retain their verified badges without the need to subscribe to Twitter Blue. That follows tweets from a number of top users like LeBron James and The White House that they would never pay for a subscription.

"It is our understanding that Twitter Blue does not provide person-level verification as a service. Thus, a blue check mark will now simply serve as a verification that the account is a paid user," White House digital strategy director Rob Flaherty told staffers in a memo. Numerous other accounts tweeted a similar sentiment, with some noting that celebrities, journalists and other influential users are the primary drivers of Twitter traffic.

Topping off the drama, Twitter just changed the tags that appears when you click on a verified badge. Before, it gave separate messages for Twitter Blue subscribers ("This account is verified because it’s subscribed to Twitter Blue") and legacy verified users ("This is a legacy verified account. It may or may not be notable."). Now, it displays the same message for both: "This account is verified because it’s subscribed to Twitter Blue or is a legacy verified account."

twitter verification

Some users applauded the revised tags as more egalitarian, but others said the message would make it harder to tell if users were genuine accounts or impersonators. That was the exact problem that delayed the rollout of Twitter Blue back in November, if you'll recall. For those on desktop who still want to know, a Chrome extension released last year can still tell you who paid for Twitter Blue, as shown by the different symbols above.

Twitter recently said that Twitter Blue would cost $1,000 per month for organizations, plus an additional $50 per month for individual affiliates in the US. The program has reportedly met with limited success to date, and Elon Musk recently told employees that Twitter was worth less than half what he paid for it, according to several reports.

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