Twitter CEO Elon Musk has changed his mind on the social media platform’s “blue checkmark” so many times it can be hard to keep track. But the billionaire’s latest move is the most perplexing.
Musk stripped “legacy” checkmarks from notable Twitter accounts on Thursday before he started doling them out like a badge of shame to celebrities who didn’t want them. Stephen King, LeBron James and Jason Alexander were just a few of the people who received a free checkmark after very publicly saying they wouldn’t pay $8 per month to keep a meaningless symbol.
Even Twitter’s legendary comedy account Dril was given a checkmark several times on Saturday, with the pseudonymous comedian constantly changing his name on the platform in an effort to get rid of the checkmark. But Dril kept getting branded with the blue check, finally accepting his fate.
Then something even weirder started to happen on Saturday afternoon. Twitter started giving anyone with a large following, roughly 1 million followers or more, a free checkmark. The only problem? By doing that, Musk has given checkmarks to people who’ve died. And when you click on the blue checkmark on their profiles it not only says they’ve subscribed to Twitter Blue, it says they’ve handed over their phone number.
Who owns the Twitter accounts that Musk has defiled with his cringeworthy gesture? Below I’ve collected a list of notable figures—the estates of which might have a problem with the fact that Musk is using their dormant accounts to imply they endorse his product.
Twitter checkmarks used to mean the identity of a given user had been verified, a feature that was rolled out after baseball legend Tony La Russa filed a lawsuit against the social media company back in 2009 over an impersonator. But Twitter doesn’t verify anyone’s identity anymore, meaning a checkmark is nothing more than a status symbol. Or, given what the mark has turned into in just a few short days, a digital dunce cap.
Twitter responded to questions late Saturday with a poop emoji, an automated response set up by Musk that goes to all reporters.
Basketball superstar Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash in 2020, has been given a blue checkmark.
Famous chef Anthony Bourdain, who died in 2018, was given a blue checkmark. As you can see if you visit his account, it reads, “This account is verified because they are subscribed to Twitter Blue and verified their phone number.”
The Marvel star of Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman, was also given a blue checkmark. Boseman died of cancer in 2020.
Chris Cornell, the musician famous for bands like Soundgarden and Audioslave who died in 2017, has a blue checkmark.
Jamal Khashoggi, a contributor to the Washington Post, was killed and dismembered at the order of Saudi Arabia’s ruler Mohammed bin Salman in 2018. Khashoggi has been given the blue check.
Actress Kirstie Alley, who died in 2022 from cancer, now has a blue checkmark. Like all of the other celebrity accounts, Alley’s Twitter feed reads, “This account is verified because they are subscribed to Twitter Blue and verified their phone number.”
The Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington, who died in 2017, now has a blue checkmark.
Journalist Barbara Walters, who died in 2022, has been given a new blue checkmark.
Comedian Bob Saget, who died in 2022, has been given a blue checkmark.
The software developer John McAfee, who died by suicide in 2021, has a blue checkmark.
Pop singer Michael Jackson, who died in 2009, now has a blue checkmark.
Pele, the legendary soccer player who died in 2022, has a blue checkmark now.
Comedian Norm Macdonald, who died in 2021 and was a prolific Twitter user, now has a blue checkmark.
Fantasy author Terry Pratchett, who died in 2015, was given a blue checkmark but Pratchett is the only one on this list with less than 1 million followers. Pratchett’s daughter, who has sparred with Musk online, tweeted that she didn’t paid for the checkmark.
John McCain, a U.S. Senator from Arizona who died in 2018, has been given a checkmark.