Chaos reigns after Twitter’s blue checks vanish


Twitter verified logos on a blue background
Image Credits: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

The blue checkmarks that once christened an echelon of elite Twitter users as trustworthy — or at least probably themselves — are no more. It’s only been a few hours since the so-called legacy blue checks flickered and eventually disappeared, but chaos already reigns.

Prior to the great unchecking, Twitter check havers and have-nots were already taking sides about what the new blue checks would mean and what kind of person would be willing to pay for them. But now that they’re gone it’s all more confusing than we’d even anticipated.

Last month, LeBron James famously declared that he wouldn’t be paying for Twitter’s premium service in spite of his prominence there and his audience of more than 50 million followers. But a few hours after blue checks vanished en masse, James’ check conspicuously remained. Author Stephen King, who previously tangled with Musk on the issue, also retained his blue check and quickly took to Twitter to clarify that he hasn’t swayed from his decision not to pay.

So what’s going on? The Verge confirmed that Twitter intervened to spare James from the great unchecking, extending a complimentary account upgrade, whether James wanted it or not apparently. King appears to have gotten the same treatment.

To make the situation even more confusing — and even less flattering to Twitter — blue checks that the company has granted for free misrepresent those users as paying customers.

Lebron's Twitter check mark

Musk confirmed his role in the mystery blue checks on Thursday afternoon, noting that he was “paying for a few personally.” (Odd wording considering that the blue checks are an incorporeal feature toggled on or off and not say, a sandwich on the house.)

Twitter's CEO says he kept some celebrity blue checks and pays for them himself

While James and King, two celebrities who had previously criticized Twitter, get to hang onto their blue checks, not everyone is getting the royal treatment. The pope himself got downgraded along with Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian and Oprah. Rihanna and Taylor Swift both managed to hang onto their blue checks, but it’s not immediately clear if they’re paying or simply other recipients of Musk’s comped blue badges.

The pope isn't verifiedMusk’s erratic interventions aside, the blue check now signals something very different on Twitter. For the first time in its history, the small blue badge means only that an account has paid for the company’s monthly subscription service, devised by Musk himself. Musk’s detractors are obviously not keen to pay for the blue check on a monthly basis, but his frenzied fans leapt at the chance when he opened up the paid feature.

Musk’s potential missteps here are obvious. By stripping blue checks from everybody (or just about everybody), the value of having the blue check at all has cratered. For regular users, the badges may now serve as an inverted sign of an account’s integrity — the mark of crypto scams and Musk acolytes rather than journalists and top celebrities. On a practical level, it’s already much more difficult to parse what information on the platform is relevant or useful than it was even just a couple of hours ago.

It’s been (checks watch) like three hours, and navigating Twitter somehow already entails wading into a disorienting miasma of impersonators, legitimate yet checkless accounts, desperate Elon adherents grasping for deliverance and famous users misleadingly portrayed as proud new paid subscribers. People who used to head to Twitter for news, celebrity updates or even customer service might want to look elsewhere for the time being, or perhaps forever.

It’s only appropriate that we bookend today’s Twitter chaos with some wise words from a guy who is probably Ice-T (difficult to say for sure).

More TechCrunch

Founder-market fit is one of the most crucial factors in a startup’s success, and operators (someone involved in the day-to-day operations of a startup) turned founders have an almost unfair advantage…

OpenseedVC, which backs operators in Africa and Europe starting their companies, reaches first close of $10M fund

A Singapore High Court has effectively approved Pine Labs’ request to shift its operations to India.

Pine Labs gets Singapore court approval to shift base to India

The AI Safety Institute, a U.K. body that aims to assess and address risks in AI platforms, has said it will open a second location in San Francisco. 

UK opens office in San Francisco to tackle AI risk

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons

Featured Article

I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Women in tech still face a shocking level of mistreatment at work. Melinda French Gates is one of the few working to change that.

17 hours ago
I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s  broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

3 days ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

3 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies