Elon Musk’s overhaul of Twitter’s blue checkmarks has resulted in numerous scams and impersonations, including a fake, verified Nintendo account tweeting an explicit photo of Mario, and a fraudulent account claiming to be former president George W. Bush tweeting that he “miss[es] killing Iraquis”.
Following his buyout of Twitter, Mr Musk said he would change the social network’s verification system – providing a blue tick to everyone that subscribed to the platform’s $8 premium service, Twitter Blue.
In order to deliniate between Twitter Blue subscribers and other important accounts – such as government officials, commercial companies, business partners, major media outlets, and more – Twitter also implemented an ‘Official’ grey checkmark.
Twitter’s online help pages say the definition of the blue checkmark is “changing” as part of the update.
“Until now, Twitter used the blue checkmark to indicate active, notable, and authentic accounts of public interest that Twitter had independently verified based on certain requirements,” the company says.
“Now the blue checkmark may mean two different things: either that an account was verified under the previous verification criteria (active, notable, and authentic), or that the account has an active subscription to Twitter Blue.
“Accounts that receive the blue checkmark as part of a Twitter Blue subscription will not undergo review to confirm that they meet the active, notable and authentic criteria that was used in the previous process.”
Many critics pushed back against the decision, claiming it was confusing, especially as Mr Musk had condemned the old verification method as creating a two-tier, ‘lords and peasants’ divide. On the same day that the ‘Official’ checkmark was rolled out, the billionaire tweeted that he “killed it”, adding that it was an “an aesthetic nightmare”.
Mr Musk has argued that adding a paid tier to the platform will help weed out spam and fake accounts because they will not be willing to pay to get traction on the site.
Twitter Blue is also set to add a feature that will promote replies to tweets from verified accounts as a way of rooting out those not verified on the site as part of a range of other perks labelled as “coming soon” to the subscription.
In the meantime, however, many users purchased verified badges and started tweeting as brand accounts.
“I miss killing Iraqis”, the fake president Bush account tweeted, shortly following it up by pointing out the flaw in Mr Musk’s verification method: “Y’all are missing the point about the $8. It’s a small price to make this app completely unusable and I’m assuming he is going to quickly learn we can get refunds from the credit cards we used if he suspends us prior to a month”, quickly adding, “Is what I would say if I was someone other than the greatest President America has ever known.”
Mr Musk suggested that the change had been working as intended, indicating with a series of emoji that he was happy to receive the $8 that users had paid for the blue checkmark.
The move is unlikely to solidify advertisers’ faith in Twitter, who have been pulling back how much they spend on the platform until the dust has settled at the company. Audi and General Mills had paused advertising on Twitter, as had General Motors and IPG Mediabrands. Twitter reportedly makes 90 per cent of its revenue from advertisers.
In response to the back and forth, Mr Musk tweeted: “Please note that Twitter will do lots of dumb things in coming months. “We will keep what works & change what doesn’t.”
Additional reporting by Associated Press