Despite Twitter deactivating the verified badges for previously verified accounts, Elon Musk has personally confirmed that he has awarded Twitter Blue to several celebrity accounts. Twitter Blue, the social media platform’s optional subscription-based verification system, requires users to pay about $8 per month to get a blue checkmark next to their username. Twitter Blue also includes several other benefits, including priority over other users in searches and threads. Musk has decided that some celebrities should get the Twitter Blue experience for free, though this has sparked some controversy.
The blue check mark on Twitter has long indicated that the platform has verified the identity of the user of the account, a step that not only helps users determine which accounts are official but also prevents fake and impersonation accounts. Musk’s first attempt to get rid of the old system led to major controversy, as the imitation led to massive confusion over the official accounts of celebrities, businesses and political accounts. That has delayed Musk’s Twitter Blue plans, but he’s been working on it.
Beginning April 15, only Twitter Blue subscribers will display a blue check mark next to their username on the platform. Musk attributed the decision to “solving the problem of advanced artificial intelligence bot swarm takeover.” The decision wasn’t taken well by everyone on Twitter, though, with many major accounts outright saying they wouldn’t be paying for Twitter Blue. Writer Stephen King is a famous example, saying as early as October 2022 that Twitter should pay him. Musk apparently hasn’t forgotten that remark.
Some celebrity users are now finding that their accounts still have Twitter’s blue checkmark, even though they haven’t paid for the service. Musk has since confirmed that he is “personally paying for some people.” The list of users Musk paid for subscriptions included William Shatner, LeBron James and Stephen King, each of whom verified via Twitter before Musk made the change.
What’s particularly odd about this situation is that Twitter Blue involves a layer of personal verification. All Twitter Blue subscribers are required to verify their phone number, personally approving the security of their account. That’s not something these celebs seem to do, and Stephen King made it clear that he neither subscribed to Twitter Blue nor provided a phone number. Plus, there’s no way to gift Twitter Blue, which means Musk isn’t funding these celebrities’ subscriptions the way Twitter itself made an exception for the three accounts.
Musk had previously said Twitter Blue was “more about treating everyone equally,” but his decision to have the accounts of Shatner, James and King verified contradicts that. Some thought Musk did it as a joke or to antagonize celebrities. Others said Musk was trying to keep the popular Twitter account highly visible, with or without subscriptions. Regardless, this is just the latest example of Musk continuing to run Twitter in unpredictable ways.