Twitter headquarters in San Francisco, California, US. Twitter said it ended a policy designed to suppress false or misleading information about Covid-19, part of Elon Musk's polarising mission to remake the social network as a place for unmoderated speech. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Most of the 420 000 verified Twitter account users woke up this morning without the blue check next to their name — after refusing to pay an $8 a month subscription to the social media platform now owned by Elon Musk.
The check mark was introduced to prevent the impersonation of public figures and organisations. According to data platform Statista, verified accounts are less than 0.2% of Twitter’s almost 240 million daily active users.
Twitter announced on 24 March that it would begin winding down its legacy verified programme and removing legacy verified check marks for non-subscribers from 1 April. Legacy accounts are those with check marks that pre-date Musk’s takeover.
Twitter then said all legacy verified checkmarks would be scrapped by 20 April and directed individuals and organisations that wanted to be verified to a link where they could sign up.
Billionaire Musk launched Twitter Blue last year after buying the social media platform for $44 billion. To get the blue check now requires the $8 subscription. Launched in December 2022, Twitter Blue subscriptions were only made available in South Africa last month.
Locally, the Twitter Blue subscription for web users will cost R145 a month, while those who subscribe on iOS or Android will pay R200, according to My Broadband.
Annual subscriptions are R1 519 for web users and R2 099 for Android and iOS users.
Prominent figures such as Bill Gates, Malala Yousafzai and Beyonce have lost their verification.
Human Rights Watch said those who did not sign up would be at a disadvantage in Twitter’s algorithm. It said in a statement: “This will be awful for those who can’t afford the new fees. It will damage the effectiveness of local activists, including human rights activists, who have long used Twitter for grassroots organising.”
South Africans were not spared, with Trevor Noah, Siya Kolisi, John Steenhuisen and Thuli Madonsela joining the ranks of those stripped of the prestigious blue check which Musk once called the “lords and peasants system”.
In something of a backtrack, however, Musk confirmed he would be personally paying for the Twitter Blue subscriptions of some celebrities so they could keep their check mark, including actor William Shatner, basketball star LeBron James and author Stephen King.