William Shatner, Monica Lewinsky and other prolific Twitter commentators — some household names, others lesser-known journalists — may soon be without help on the social media platform Verify identity blue check mark.
They can recoup their points by paying up to $11 a month. But some longtime users, including 92-year-old Star Trek legend Shatner, have been reluctant to buy into the premium service that Twitter’s billionaire owner and chief executive, Elon Musk, has championed.
After months of delays, Musk gleefully promised that Saturday was the deadline for celebrities, journalists and others to get certified for free to pay or lose their estate status.
“It will be honorable,” he tweeted Monday in response to a Twitter user who pointed out that Saturday is also April Fools’ Day.
After buying Twitter for $44 billion in October, Musk has been trying to boost revenue for the struggling platform by pushing more people to pay for premium subscriptions. But his actions also reflect his assertion that the blue verification badge has become an undeserved or “corrupt” status symbol for elites and journalists.
Aside from verifying celebrities, one of the main reasons Twitter started marking profiles with a free blue checkmark about 14 years ago was to verify politicians, activists and people who popped up in the news, and rarely seen in small publications. Known Reporters is used globally as an additional tool to curb misinformation from accounts impersonating others.
Lewinsky tweeted a screenshot on Sunday showing all the people impersonating her, at least one of whom appeared to have paid for a blue check mark. She asks, “Which world is fair for those who may suffer the consequences of being impersonated? Lies are spread halfway around the world before the truth even walks out of the gate.”
Shatner, known for his irreverent humor, also posted Musk complaining about the promised changes.
“I’ve been here for 15 years and my (clock emoji) and wit is all for bupkis,” he wrote. “Now you’re telling me I have to pay for something you gave me for free?”
Musk responded that celebrities should not have different standards. “More about treating everyone equally,” Musk tweeted.
For now, those who still have blue checks but apparently haven’t paid the extra — including Beyoncé, Stephen King, Barack and Michelle Obama, Taylor Swift, Tucker Carlson, Drake and A group—including Musk himself—attached information to their email profile saying it was a “legacy verified account. It may or may not be noteworthy.”
But while “the focus on celebrities is justified because of our culture,” Alex Howard, director of the Digital Democracy Project and an advocate for open government, is more concerned that copycats can more easily spread rumors and conspiracies, These rumors and conspiracies could affect the markets or damage the surrounding world of democracies.
“The reason verification exists on this platform is not just to designate people as famous people or authorities, but to prevent impersonation,” Howard said.
One of Musk’s first product moves after taking over Twitter was a service that would hand out blue checks to anyone willing to pay $8 a month. But it was quickly inundated with imposter accounts, including those impersonating Nintendo, pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Musk’s businesses Tesla and SpaceX, so Twitter had to suspend its service days after the launch.
The rebooted service costs $8 a month for Web users and $11 a month for iPhone and iPad users. Subscribers should see fewer ads, be able to post longer videos, and have their tweets stand out more.