It cost me nothing but a little bit of my time to get a then-coveted verification badge for my Twitter account in the fall of 2014, and lately that checkmark icon seems worth nothing–if it isn’t already worth less than nothing.
In the latest of a long series of own goals by Twitter overlord Elon Musk, he’s skipped from offering verification as a new perk for people who pay $8 a month for “Twitter Blue” to dissing people with “legacy verification” badges with a “May or may not be notable” label to saying those “legacy blue checks” will go away “in a few months” to setting an April 1 date to start that expiration process to changing the label for both old-school and new-school verification badges to this uselessly vague text: “This account is verified because it’s subscribed to Twitter Blue or is a legacy verified account.”
So now those of us who got our verification badges the old-fashioned way have nothing to distinguish ourselves from the chumps who handed over $8 a month ($11 a month if you paid in Twitter’s mobile apps). And the people who voted with their wallets have nothing visually setting them apart from the unelected elites who had won favor among the old regime. And random Twitter users have no way to tell an account that was subject to some human verification from one that provided a working credit card. We are all losers now.
I have less room to complain than most badge holders, having obtained this status via some in-person schmoozing of a Twitter rep at the Online News Association’s 2014 conference. I followed up over e-mail, providing links to my work at five different news sites, and 11 days later got a “Congratulations! Your account has been verified” e-mail from Twitter.
I know many other people who should have met the nebulous verification guidelines never got awarded that “blue-check” status. (Fact check: As anybody can see, the icon consists of a white checkmark inside a blue circle.) It wasn’t a fair fight then and it isn’t one now.
It is, however, now comical that Musk has managed to make both legacy and paid verification worthless with that new label, perhaps because technical debt makes bulk-deleting legacy verification too difficult. As the Washington Post reported: “Removal of verification badges is a largely manual process powered by a system prone to breaking, which draws on a large internal database — similar to an Excel spreadsheet — in which verification data is stored.”
So far, the only notable check mark that’s actually been pulled has been that of the New York Times’ main account, which Musk apparently had yanked to show off that he could. That stunt is one more reminder–since followed by Musk applying a “state-affiliated media” label to NPR’s account, a move he now seems to be having second thoughts about–that Twitter has become the vanity project of a shitposting billionaire suffering from delusions of social-media competence.