Tech & The Web

The Twitter Verification Checkmark Drama Goes On

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If you follow the on-again, off-again Twitter verification checkmark fight, you may be scratching your head by now. Who could blame you?

As I write this, the plan to force users to pay a subscription fee to get their little blue Twitter verification checkmark seems to be off. I hate to say that too definitively because you could almost get whiplash from the speed of reversals and changes here.

When Elon Musk took over Twitter, the verification checkmark was one of his first targets. He criticized the “legacy” system and the difficulty in actually getting verified as a legitimate user who the profile claims to be.

So Musk added the little symbol as an option for people willing to subscribe to Twitter Blue. The price tag roughly doubled to $7.99 per month. Speculation claimed those who already had the badge would lose it unless they subscribed.

“Power to the people! Blue for $8/month,” he tweeted on Nov. 1. I’ll come back to that tweet in a few moments.

Plenty of people balked at the idea. I was one of them. We argued that if anyone can get that verification checkmark by paying a monthly fee, it would be meaningless. Part of the old badge’s appeal was that it helped ensure you were talking to the real deal, not a scammer or impersonator. If anyone can get one, that assurance flies out the window.

Then, suddenly, Twitter announced it would hold off on that plan until after Election Day. They never explained that, but it seemed to give credence to the notion that there was something wrong with a paid checkmark.

Indeed, The Washington Post claimed that it was able to get “Twitter-verified” for the $8 fee by posing as a comedian and as a U.S. senator, proving the worthlessness of paid vertifcation!

After the election, the rollout was supposed to begin.

Somewhere around that time, Twitter briefly added a second checkmark. The Verge reported that Twitter brought back the gray checkmark for “official accounts.” I saw it on the main Twitter account on Thursday evening, but by Friday morning, it had vanished again.

Checking the checkmark

Twitter decided to give users a way to determine exactly why a verified account had the badge. Since anyone who subscribed to Twitter Blue could get the exact same checkmark, the very problem that caused the complaints about the new worthlessness of the checkmark itself, Twitter offered what felt like a compromise. The service decided to disclose how an account actually acquired verification.

Somehow, I suppose they felt this made things fair. But it further eroded the appeal of getting the checkmark by subscribing,

Under that plan, you could go to the profile of anyone who has the badge. If it’s someone who was verified under the legacy program, it would tell you so.

When I go to Elon Musk’s profile and click the blue check there, a popup appears.

“This account is verified because it’s notable in government, news, entertainment or another designated category,” the popup states. You can click a link to “learn more” about this type of checkmark.

Meanwhile, someone who got the checkmark of approval because they paid for Twitter Blue couldn’t keep that little detail a secret. A similar popup would appear when someone clicked on the badge from their profile.

“This account is verified because it’s subscribed to Twitter Blue,” the popup states.

Those who hoped to quietly subscribe to get the checkmark and make someone believe they were more “official” than they actually are were out of luck by virtue of being “tattled on” by the service.

Granted, many Twitter users wouldn’t take the time to click the link. But those who do got the full story, whether the verified account holder wanted them to or not.

And yes, I think it’s laughably ironic that Twitter’s new owner who apparently hates the old system allows the popup on his profile to continue to say he got his because’s he’s a notable.

As of Friday, those two popups remain intact. We don’t know how long the second will stick around. Soon, it may be obsolete.

Paid subscription option disappears

Remember that “power to the people” tweet Musk himself posted on Nov. 1? You can see it in my post here. But when you go to the actual post on Twitter, you now get an error: “This tweet is unavailable.”

Reuters reported users could no longer find a way to get the verification checkmark by subscribing to Twitter Blue.

I’m not 100% clear what they mean by that, however.

When I go to the Twitter Blue page from my Twitter profile, a popup appears highlighting the options a Twitter Blue subscriber will enjoy.

But the very first item, in a larger, white window, makes it clear:

“All Blue subscribers get a verified account and a blue checkmark.”

If the option is truly “gone” for everyone, maybe there are parts of the Twitterverse that have not yet received that memo. It’s obvious that I’m in that “Twilight Zone” of Twitter users in which a feature — if it actually is destined to disappear once and for all — hasn’t done so yet.

One of the options for Twitter Blue subscribers, as you see at the bottom of the popup, it an “Edit Tweet” button. As much as I’ve called for an edit button over the years, I wouldn’t pay extra to have one. That should be a basic option everyone should have access to immediately. I wouldn’t pay $8 per month for a feature any reasonable person would be included for free.

But at the bottom of the popup, if I scroll all the way down, something most people don’t seem willing to do these days, it notes, “You can only subscribe on the Twitter iOS app (for now).”

When I go to the mobile app, there’s no sign of Twitter Blue at all.

So what does that mean? At this point, who knows?

‘Tricking people is not OK,’ Musk says.

ARS Technica reported the decision to (temporarily) remove the verification checkmark from Twitter Blue came for a reason. That reason: “a wave of imposter accounts began using the verified checkmarks from Twitter’s Blue paid subscription service to post misleading tweets while pretending to be some of the world’s biggest brands.”

It left Musk, they claim, with no choice other than to suspend the subscription verification.

So let me get this straight…if that report is correct, then it would have to mean that Musk was shocked by the volume of fake accounts being set up when he opened the door to that very thing.

It would seem he might be the only one.

He tweeted a message: “Tricking people is not OK.” Well, he’s absolutely right about that.

I’m not sure how anyone couldn’t have seen it coming: there are those “bad actors” out there who are always waiting to pounce anytime there’s a new way to trick people. Paid verification is an easy way to do just that.

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.

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