Credit: Screengrab / Twitter
The latest speed bump in the rollout of Twitter’s revamped verification policy under new owner Elon Musk is here: Spite checkmarks. Twitter is capriciously awarding unwanted blue verification badges to the most prominent critics of those very badges.
One recipient is the undisputed king of Weird Twitter, @dril (the massively popular account belonging to a writer in Los Angeles named Paul Dochney(opens in a new tab)).
Tweet may have been deleted (opens in a new tab) Another recipient of an unwanted badge is Mashable’s own Matt Binder.
Tweet may have been deleted (opens in a new tab) Leftist Twitch streamer Hasan Piker is another recipient of an apparent spite checkmark.
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Tweet may have been deleted (opens in a new tab) It’s a puzzling twist in an absolutely exhausting story. Verification badges or “blue checks” started out dryly enough as the icons used in Twitter’s ID verification process, but in time they turned into status symbols. This divide between haves and have-nots became a pet issue for a certain subset of users — often critics(opens in a new tab) of the perceived groupthink of Silicon Valley and the mainstream media — and when Elon Musk bought Twitter, one of his stated goals was to fix this divide by awarding the badges to those who subscribe to Twitter Blue, the paid version of Twitter created not long before Musk bought the company.
In practice, however, this transition was a mess. Musk himself touted the policy with tweets that antagonized his critics, and made him sound entitled to their money. “Trash me all day, but it’ll cost $8,” he wrote(opens in a new tab) in November of last year. In the months after Twitter put this idea into practice, Twitter Blue subscribers were found to mostly be accounts with relatively few followers, and decidedly not the type of prominent users who need an ID verification process in order to avoid being impersonated, and having their followers potentially victimized.
But when Twitter took the added step of revoking the badges of prominent Twitter users earlier this week, a much sharper contrast appeared between Twitter Blue subscribers with their blue badges, and prominent, formerly verified users — perceived to be creators of much of the high-quality content that makes Twitter worthwhile — with none.
Making this state of affairs all the more aggravating for many longtime users was the fact that Twitter Blue membership is now associated with Elon Musk fandom. And since Twitter Blue subscribers get boosts in prominence on the site, blue checkmarks came to feel like a swarm of pests interfering with their enjoyment of the platform.
In response, the creator of a defunct app called The Block List, created an account called @BlockTheBlue, and started a campaign aimed at marginalizing Twitter Blue subscribers by blocking them en masse, thus ostensibly quieting the noise and returning Twitter to its previous idyll. The campaign might itself have remained marginal, but it quickly acquired @dril as a prominent proponent, and gave the Block the Blue campaign instant access to his 1.7 million followers.
Shortly after the Friday publication of a Mashable article about the campaign, the @BlockTheBlue account was suspended. Then on Saturday afternoon, @dril tweeted a picture of a toilet with a checkmark in it and used the hashtag #BlockTheBlueChecks(opens in a new tab).
Amid the drama surrounding that tweet, @dril suddenly had a blue checkmark next to his name. He responded by repeatedly changing his display name, and, naturally, joking around.
Tweet may have been deleted (opens in a new tab) Mashable’s Matt Binder tweeted that he “will without a doubt be using whatever method works to get rid” of his checkmark.
Tweet may have been deleted (opens in a new tab) Elon Musk has given out other seemingly involuntary blue checkmarks, including ones to Lebron James, Stephen King, and William Shatner(opens in a new tab). However this latest move is a slight change from this strategy. James, King, and Shatner had voiced their disapproval of the new policy, and Musk commented on their unexpected badges as if they were gifts(opens in a new tab).
By contrast, this latest crop of spite checkmarks is an unambiguous attempt to antagonize people who overtly criticize Musk and people who pay for Twitter. @dril, for his part, referred to them as “blue guys” and called them “dead-eyed cretins who are usually trying to sell you something stupid and expensive,” but now he is one. By his own logic, his followers should block him.
Binder called the move(opens in a new tab) Musk’s “first funny thing.”
Update: As of 5:32 p.m. on April 22, this is story was still developing. Users appear to have suggested to @dril that this move on the part of Twitter may qualify as “false endorsement(opens in a new tab)” which would be against the law. @drill appears to be continuously changing his name to remove the check mark, but it keeps being added to his profile anyway.
In addition, Kara Swisher, another prominent Musk critic, but one who doesn’t appear to be associated with the Block the Blue campaign was also a recipient(opens in a new tab) of one of these unwanted(opens in a new tab) checkmarks late on Saturday.
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