(NEXSTAR) – After weeks of uncertainty, Elon Musk made good on his threats to remove blue checkmarks from the accounts of verified users on Thursday.
From former President Donald J. Trump to celebrities LeBron James and William Shatner, users who didn’t pay up to retain the blue badge lost them.
The costs of keeping the marks range from $8 a month for individual web users to a starting price of $1,000 monthly to verify an organization, plus $50 monthly for each affiliate or employee account. Twitter does not verify the individual accounts to ensure they are who they say they are, as was the case with the previous blue check doled out during the platform’s pre-Musk administration.
Twitter had about 300,000 verified users under the original blue-check system — many of them journalists, athletes and public figures. The checks began disappearing from these users’ profiles late morning Pacific Time.
Converting what was once a signal of authenticity into a revenue stream has caused confusion, made worse by several false starts. When CEO Musk first made it possible for users to buy a blue checkmark, fake accounts purporting to belong to former President George W. Bush and Ely Lilly sprang up.
Adding to the complexity in November, Musk created a multicolored system with various checkmarks for different entities.
On Thursday, some mourned the loss of their checkmark while others poked fun at its demise.
“It can be spelled both ‘checkmark’ and ‘check mark,’ not that it really matters anymore,” Dictionary.com tweeted.
The first evidence of checkmark-related confusion started to emerge as well, with a check-less @nycgov tweeting, “This is an authentic Twitter account representing the New York City Government,” to which @NYCG0VERNMENT replied, “No, you’re not. THIS account is the only authentic Twitter account representing and run by the New York City Government.”
Other organizations, such as the Washington State Department of Natural Resources recommended visitors go to its website and click the Twitter icon at the bottom of the page to reach the verified government Twitter account.
The demise of the blue checkmark
After buying Twitter for $44 billion in October, Musk has been trying to boost the struggling platform’s revenue by pushing more people to pay for a premium subscription. But his move also reflects his assertion that the blue verification marks have become an undeserved or “corrupt” status symbol for elite personalities, news reporters and others granted verification for free by Twitter’s previous leadership.
Twitter began tagging profiles with a blue checkmark starting about 14 years ago. Along with shielding celebrities from impersonators, one of the main reasons was to provide an extra tool to curb misinformation coming from accounts impersonating people. Most “legacy blue checks,” including the accounts of politicians, activists and people who suddenly find themselves in the news, as well as little-known journalists at small publications around the globe, are not household names.
One of Musk’s first product moves after taking over Twitter was to launch a service granting blue checks to anyone willing to pay $8 a month. But it was quickly inundated by impostor accounts, including those impersonating Nintendo, pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Musk’s businesses Tesla and SpaceX, so Twitter had to temporarily suspend the service days after its launch.
The relaunched service costs $8 a month for web users and $11 a month for users of its iPhone or Android apps. Subscribers are supposed to see fewer ads, be able to post longer videos and have their tweets featured more prominently.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.