Elon Musk pays for Stephen King and LeBron James to keep Twitter blue ticks
Writer and basketball star are among famous names to retain ticks despite not signing up to Twitter Blue
Elon Musk has admitted he is paying for some prominent Twitter accounts to retain their blue ticks, as the social media platform launched a cull that stripped verified status from many famous names including Beyoncé, Ronaldo and Paul McCartney.
Twitter’s owner confirmed the gesture after it emerged that the writer Stephen King, the actor William Shatner and the basketball star LeBron James had retained their ticks – which confer verified status on accounts – despite not signing up to Twitter Blue, the site’s subscription service.
On Thursday Musk pushed ahead with a long-threatened promise to strip the blue tick from about 400,000 legacy verified accounts unless they signed up to Blue, which costs upwards of $8 a month in the US, £9.60 in the UK and A$13 in Australia.
The overnight cull meant that many famous names, with millions of followers, lost their blue check status. The names now without verified status include Beyoncé, Ronaldo, Kim Kardashian, Sir Paul McCartney, JK Rowling and Donald Trump. Twitter now has zero legacy verified accounts according to Travis Brown, a software developer who has been tracking Twitter’s subscription service, down from about 400,000 at the beginning of the month, with Blue sign-ups now at an estimated 630,000.
Under Musk’s plans for Twitter Blue, subscribers’ replies will gain greater prominence in users’ default For You feed, while tweets you interact with will also be boosted. However, Twitter will continue to display accounts that people follow in their For You feed, whether or not they are Twitter Blue subscribers. Musk has said the switch to paid-for verification is necessary to eradicate automated bot accounts and generate an alternative source of income to advertising, which accounts for most of Twitter’s income.
Gary Lineker, the Match of the Day presenter and prominent tweeter, still had a blue check as of Friday morning and was among those who appeared to have paid for verification status.
The tech news site the Verge reported on Thursday that a Twitter employee had emailed LeBron James recently to “extend a complimentary subscription to Twitter Blue for your account, @kingjames, on behalf of Elon Musk”. James, who has more than 52 million followers, had been a prominent opponent of paying for verification, stating last month that he “ain’t paying” for a blue check.
King, the multimillion-selling writer of The Shining and It, expressed bafflement he now had a verified account that told followers clicking on his blue check that he was a Twitter Blue subscriber. He wrote: “My Twitter account says I’ve subscribed to Twitter Blue. I haven’t.” Musk, indicating he had stepped in on King’s behalf to help him retain his verified status, replied: “You’re welcome namaste.”
Official organisations have had their blue checks replaced with a grey “official” tick, including the account for Pope Francis and Bellingcat, the investigative news site. However, some official sites such as the US citizen and immigration services account did not have a grey tick as of Friday morning.
There was also confusion over fake accounts, an issue that has dogged Musk’s attempts to introduce a verification system, with a false New York City government account tweeting at the authentic NYC government account that “THIS account is the only authentic Twitter account representing and run by the New York City Government”. The fake account was later suspended.
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