Blue Check Confusion – The New York Times

I got my verified Twitter check mark about eight years ago while working as a cub reporter at a digital news outlet. I did nothing to earn other than showing up to work one day and Oh, hey, would you look at that! I’m verified. sweet!

(Technically, the check mark was white, surrounded by blue, but colloquially they’ve become known as blue checks and I’m not about to squabble over semantics now.)

It feels a little pathetic to reflect on how excited I was about getting a check mark, but that was still the era when digital journalism was fighting to be taken seriously. Getting that check, which denoted that Twitter had confirmed the identity of the account’s owner and operator, gave me credibility.

Last week, after much throat clearing, Twitter started removing the check marks from previously verified accounts whose users had declined to pay a fee — which was most of them. Now, anyone can be “verified” on Twitter. It’ll cost you $8 a month and comes with basically none of the usefulness that verification used to offer because Twitter is no longer confirming that people are who they say they are.

The change in verification is one of the most visible effects that Elon Musk has had on Twitter since he bought it last year. Information on the platform, once considered indispensable for following breaking news, has become increasingly unreliable. And for users who rely on Twitter to follow celebrities or other figures, the verification change is part of a shift that will make many prominent users less visible because they are less likely to pay to retain their check marks.

By the time Musk announced that all previously verified users would be losing their status, a blue check was nothing to be proud of. Some users are now calling it “the dreaded mark” or that “stinking badge,” my colleagues Callie Holtermann and Lora Kelley reported last week.

The icon makes its owner appear “desperate for validation,” according to the rapper Doja Cat. Twitter also restored blue checks for popular users who didn’t want them, including LeBron James, Bette Midler and Stephen King. The model and internet personality Chrissy Teigen called her blue check a form of “punishment.”

I would argue that the blue check was never as covetable as Musk thought it was. (He has called it a “lords & peasants system.”) For me and many other journalists, it was essentially just a tool to prove to the sources I was who I said I was. No different than a press badge or a business card.

Why should anyone care about the check mark changes, especially if their job doesn’t involve sliding into DMs? Twitter’s check mark system wasn’t perfect, but it did make it easier for users to figure out if the tweets were coming from a real person or organization, or from, say, an account pretending to be Eli Lilly and promising free insulin for all. (This really happened in November 2022, tanking the company’s stock.)

Now users will have to work harder to make sure people are who they aim to be. I can attest that it’s harder than it sounds.

But that’s not to say Musk’s new system isn’t useful in its own way. The new check marks have instead become an inversion of the old. If I see you have one, I immediately don’t care what you have to say.

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