Last year, Elon Musk changed Twitter’s verified program from a quasi-signal that a user is notable to a pay-for-checkmark $8 free-for-all. Immediately, trolls and comedians seized on the opportunity, making verified fake accounts for politicians, reminding people of Chiquita Banana’s involvement in genocide, and arranging a pretend, but disgusting, conversation between Ben Shapiro and Ted Cruz.
The most significant fallout, though, came with a tweet from a user pretending to be drug manufacturer Eli Lily. After the user tweeted “We are excited to announce that insulin is free now,” Eli Lily’s stock fell by an estimated $15 billion. Months later, the company caved to public pressure and capped the monthly out-of-pocket cost of insulin at $35.
Now, Musk seems set on smashing the chaos button at Twitter once again. Couple that with the fact that Twitter doesn’t seem to be doing much to “verify” that people are who they say they are, and the app could have another mess on its hands.
Last week, Twitter CEO said that legacy verified accounts will lose their blue checks on April 1st. Musk has warned this is coming for a long time, but the April Fools Day timing is suspicious. A prank announcement isn’t beneath the former richest man in the world.
Musk also said that the tortured “For You” tab will feature only verified accounts. Musk quickly walked that back, however, and said you’ll still see tweets from people you follow in For You.
Regardless of the specifics, any change to Twitter’s checkmark system will be mayhem. Seeing a tweet from a blue-checked account is already confusing on a platform where it can either mean you’re a significant cultural figure or a person willing to pay Musk $8. A recent report said half of Twitter Blue subscribers have less than 1,000 followers, but from the outside, they look no different than CEOs and New York Times journalists.
The checkmarks are even blurrier when you consider the app’s bizarre color scheme, where a blue check means you’re legacy verified or a subscriber, a gray check means you’re an official government account, and a gold check means you’re a significant brand account. Long story short, Twitter’s efforts to clarify who is or isn’t verified for one reason or another have created an even more confusing system that people can’t be bothered to understand.
Rest assured, Musk likes charging ahead with his ideas, so it’s likely that some changes will eventually come to Twitter’s verification system. When that happens, it will be another golden opportunity for users to sneak by and dunk on big brands. Here are a few possibilities for what that might look like.
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