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Elon MuskPhoto by Joanne Ho-Young Lee/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

Elon Musk has turned Twitter’s blue ticks into an anti-status symbol

While celebrities shun their reinstated checkmarks, fascists are celebrating their newfound acceptance on the social media platform

Back in October 2022, Elon Musk spent more than $40 billion on Twitter just to feel something. As we know all too well, in his time as the company’s CEO so far, he’s lorded over a hellscape of his own making, tweeting proclamations in the form of 69 and 420 jokes, while helping to platform hate speech and reinstate banned neo-Nazi accounts. Somehow, though, these are far from the most controversial aspects of his reign – that honour is reserved for Twitter’s infamous blue checkmarks.

Last week, Elon declared that he was officially putting an end to the “lords and peasants system” of Twitter verification, and on Thursday he initiated the promised revolution, severing blue ticks from accounts across the platform. (Accounts that aren’t subscribed to his paid verification service, Twitter Blue, that is.) Unsurprisingly, the move was met with widespread backlash from formerly verified users, though others rejoiced that they’d been “freed” from the shackles of minor internet celebrity.

Needless to say, the change also gave rise to a wave of parody accounts and impersonations that are basically indistinguishable from real celebrities and organisations (and we all know how much Elon hates a parody account). More importantly, though, it exposed at a glance whose blue tick was actually “earned” and who pays for the “privilege”, naming and shaming the people who believe their rambling into the void is worth $8 to amplify.

To add to the chaos, some celebrities revealed that they’d mysteriously been added to the list of verified users in the immediate aftermath of the blue tick cull, despite not subscribing to Twitter Blue. “My Twitter account says I’ve subscribed to Twitter Blue,” tweeted author Stephen King on April 20. “I haven’t.” How did this happen? Well, he was one of three people whose blue tick was inexplicably paid for by Musk himself, alongside LeBron James and William Shatner. In response to King’s denial of his blue tick, Elon simply replied: “You’re welcome namaste.”

The question is, Elon: who asked? Definitely not Stephen King. “I think Mr. Musk should give my blue check to charity,” the author responded, recommending a foundation that provides lifesaving services in Ukraine. “It’s only $8, so perhaps Mr. Musk could add a bit more.” Not one to be outdone (or resist a pointless Twitter feud), Musk later replied to King’s tweet once again, with a weirdly confrontational message: “I’ve donated $100M to Ukraine, how much have you donated?”

Rather than backing off on the blue ticks in the following days, Twitter seems to have doubled down, with numerous personalities – from Beyoncé, to Owen Jones, to legendary shitposter dril, to the Pope – regaining a verification checkmark despite paying for it. Miraculously, deceased figures including Michael Jackson, Kobe Bryant, and murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi have also apparently risen from the dead to fork out their $8 to Elon, so strong was their desire to have Twitter place a little blue logo next to their name.

Could it be that Twitter is “paying” for their blue ticks because of the lacklustre signup rate for Twitter Blue, with some reports suggesting that just 28 new accounts signed up after the latest push? Or is Elon Musk intentionally trying to embarrass his critics with the suggestion that they’ve signed up to his lame service? That might sound like a weird self-own, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility. Under Elon, the blue tick has somehow been flipped on its head, evolving from a badge worn by the cultural elite, to an anti-status symbol that most people – the ones who aren’t Elon reply guys or crypto bros – wouldn’t touch with a barge pole.

“To be very clear, I am more likely to come out as straight than buy Twitter Blue... Isn’t it some form of defamation to falsely make it look like people have purchased a product associated with being a total loser[?]” tweeted Owen Jones on April 22, after his blue tick was restored. Similarly unenthusiastic, dril tweeted a screenshot of the blue badge, captioned, “Ah they got me. I’m fucked”, before going on a spree of name changes that seemingly lost it again.

Admittedly, we might never understand Elon Musk’s real intentions for the blue tick – whether he had real egalitarian dreams, ruined by his all-powerful desire for attention from internet celebrities, or some more sinister plan to undermine the platform’s biggest rivals (who are, uncoincidentally, often also its biggest users). 

What we do know is that, while recklessly reinstating verification checkmarks, Elon Musk’s Twitter has also granted verification status to some very dangerous figures and groups, like Britain First, a political party of far-right fascists. After being banned by Twitter in 2017, Britain First is now labelled with the gold tick of an “official organisation” on Twitter, with blue ticks awarded to “affiliated” Twitter users. Celebrating in an email newsletter, the organisation says that its gold checkmark gives it a “huge boost of credibility”, adding: “We can finally reach the mainstream... our follower counts are growing fast.”

In Elon’s own words... let that sink in.