Apr 4, 2024 - Technology

X gives prominent accounts blue checkmarks but many don't want them

Elon Musk in Krakow, Poland, in January 2024.

Elon Musk in Krakow, Poland, in January 2024. Photo: Grzegorz Wajda/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

X, previously Twitter, gave several prominent accounts free premium subscriptions to its service and the site's iconic blue verification badge, many of which immediately rejected it.

Why it matters: The move comes almost exactly a year after Elon Musk's platform ended the previous verification structure in exchange for a paid system allowing anyone to be verified for $8 a month.

  • Experts at the time warned that the decision would make it harder for everyday users to find reliable information and easier to spread misinformation and hateful content. Per some watchdog groups, that happened.

Zoom out: Musk said in March that accounts with over 2,500 "verified subscriber followers" would get premium features for free, while accounts with over 5,000 would get additional features.

  • When he posted that, it wasn't clear if it would apply to accounts with thousands of people paying to subscribe to them personally or any account with followers who are paying to use the platform.

What they're saying: "What's with the random blue check I didn't ask for or pay for?" MSNBC host and lawyer Katie Phang asked after noticing her free subscription and blue checkmark.

  • "I see that Musk is going back to the failed attempt to stick blue checks on people to try to obscure the difference between sensible folks and people who will pay eight dollars to Elon Musk," Tom Nichols, a contributor at the The Atlantic, said in response to his subscription.
  • American radio journalist Kai Ryssdal responded with a one-word expletive, while journalist and screenwriter David Simon simply quoted Civil War Gen. William Sherman: "If nominated I will not run. If elected I will not serve."

Between the lines: Handing out free subscriptions could be the platform's attempt at retaining prominent users and increase usage, as it has hemorrhaged users and advertisers in its first year under Musk's ownership.

  • However, the meaning behind the once-highly sought-after verification symbol shifted significantly once X put a price tag on it, changing from a badge of honor to more of a sign of desperation.
  • It was unclear if the change would affect users already paying for a premium subscription. It was also unclear if those who were given a free verification badge could remove it.

Go deeper: X's lawsuit against hate speech watchdog group tossed by judge

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