Twitter CEO Elon Musk has been handing out free checkmarks like candy in recent days, after the billionaire swore to remove the “legacy” checkmarks people acquired before he bought the company in October 2022. But even though Musk is handing them out for nothing, that doesn’t mean the celebrities actually want them. Perhaps surprisingly, the checkmark has become a mark of shame for many on the social media platform.
“Friends told me my blue verified check was restored. Dont know why. I’ve paid nothing. I gave no number. @StephenKing reported same,” Seinfeld actor Jason Alexander tweeted on Saturday.
Alexander went on to explain that the only reason his account is still active on Twitter is so that someone doesn’t steal his name and try to impersonate him.
“My account remains so no one steals the account name. And I can tell you this madness hasn’t happened on Insta or Spoutible,” Alexander continued, referring to competing social media platforms.
Another person who was “gifted” a checkmark by Musk, horror author Stephen King, has also said he doesn’t want the blue check. King even floated the idea that Musk should give the cost of his checkmark to a charity supporting Ukraine in its fight against Russia.
“I think Mr. Musk should give my blue check to charity. I recommend the Prytula Foundation, which provides lifesaving services in Ukraine. It’s only $8, so perhaps Mr. Musk could add a bit more,” King tweeted on Saturday.
Basketball star LeBron James, who also received his “gift” checkmark “on behalf of Elon Musk,” according to the Verge, doesn’t want the gift—yet another data point for how poisonous the little digital symbol has become.
Why do these celebrities not like their “gifts”? Probably because the checkmark has become associated with people who pay for what they see purely as a status symbol. And a number of prominent neo-Nazi and white supremacist accounts have been buying blue checkmarks to boost their messages to a larger audience, an association that no reasonable person wants.
Previously, Twitter launched its verification program simply as a way to combat impersonator accounts. Baseball legend Tony La Russa filed a lawsuit against the company back in 2009 over an impersonator, leading to the roll-out of Twitter’s “Verfied” program. But Twitter doesn’t actually verify anyone’s identity anymore under Musk’s leadership. All the blue checkmark means now is that you have at least $8 to spend.
The cost for Twitter Blue is even more expensive for organizations, which have to spend at least $1,000 per month for their various colored checkmarks—yellow for news organizations, gray for political groups, etc. But as some people have pointed out in recent days, if you apply for a checkmark for your organization, you can just lose the $1,000 if you’re not approved. It’s right there in Twitter’s terms of service.
Some people on Twitter have launched a campaign they call “Block the Blue,” in an effort to get users to block anyone with a checkmark. It’s not clear how widespread the campaign might be, but Twitter did ban an account called Block the Blue on Friday, demonstrating that someone at the company took notice and didn’t like it.
NBC reporter Ben Collins tweeted on Friday that when you factor in the number of people who cancelled their Twitter Blue on Thursday and Friday, the first two days of the new system, Twitter gained just 28 new subscribers.
It’s honestly shocking to see the blue checkmark become so hated so quickly. There may not be anything like it in the relatively short history of social media. The only thing I can think of that comes close would be having an AOL email address in the 2010s, something that would likely be seen as retro-cool by now. The Twitter checkmark is basically a lesson in how not to grow your brand.
As popular Twitter commentator Jeet Heer pointed out on Saturday, Musk has seemingly made the blue checkmark so toxic that he can’t even give them away for free to people who just a few months ago were rallying against Musk for taking them away. The people who have gotten these “gifts” have expressed displeasure with Musk for giving them what effectively amounts to a digital dunce cap.
“Seems like the easiest way to get a free blue check is to express scorn & contempt for Elon Musk. A strange business model,” Heer tweeted.
Strange indeed. But maybe Musk knows what he’s doing and there’s a long game at play here. It’s entirely possible. But I’m not going to bet on it.
Update, 4:55 p.m. ET: It appears Elon Musk gave Dril, the pseudonymous comedy account, a checkmark on Saturday. Dril, who’s actually 35-year-old L.A.-based comedian Paul Dochney, told Mashable on Friday that he was in support of the Block the Blue campaign.
“99% of twitter blue guys are dead-eyed cretins who are usually trying to sell you something stupid and expensive, and now they want to pay a monthly subscription fee to boost their dog shit posts front and center,” Dril told Mashable.
It’s not clear if Drill will attempt to block himself.