Yesterday, Twitter began stripping verification badges from users who haven’t paid for Twitter Blue, the $8 a month service that provides a host of slightly more sophisticated features and that once-coveted blue checkmark. The symbol, which used to signify that the bearer’s account was verified as authentic, now simply means the user has paid for it. Since Elon Musk got rid of all the legacy blue checks yesterday, those symbols have quickly become an object of derision, signaling that a user has merely purchased their way to blue-check status.
The vast majority of prominent Washingtonians are currently check-less, and DC-based journalists and agencies have already tweeted out good riddances to their badges.
There once was a blue check on Twitter.
Whose presence I could give a shit o’er.
When it came, I said hi.
When it left, I said bye.
Cuz it’s value to me is like litter. pic.twitter.com/9PMXVQQpwO
— Kara Swisher (@karaswisher) April 20, 2023
But despite all of that, we’ve been noticing a few accounts that still sport blue checks today. What’s up with that? We decided to ask.
Ryan Kearney, executive editor of the New Republic, tweeted today that “I would like to thank @elonmusk for personally paying for my blue checkmark” (he then pointed toward a New Republic story declaring Musk the Nimrod of the Year). We assumed the thing about Elon buying his checkmark was in jest, which he confirmed when we reached out: “Yes, it’s a joke. I assume Elon is not paying for my blue checkmark. But I’m not paying for it either! I have no idea why it’s still there.”
For Atlantic staff writer Olga Khazan, there is much less mystery. When we asked why she still has the check, she pointed us toward a tweet explaining that she had subscribed to Twitter Blue previously. “The funniest part is that I signed up for a year (it’s cheaper that way), so even if I cancel, they won’t hide my blue check. So you can yell at me all you want but there’s literally nothing I can do, lol,” it reads in part (it’s a long tweet—one of the perks of shelling out for Blue). Khazan wrote that she was compelled to sign up “out of a mix of curiosity and anxiety after the penultimate threat that they were going to start charging.” Now she’s stuck with it until the year-long subscription is up.
Luke Thomas, a DC-based analyst for CBS Sports, is in a similar situation. He purchased Twitter Blue in January of this year—before Musk made many of his news-making controversial changes—for its editing feature and ability to upload videos up to ten minutes in length. Thomas has since canceled his Twitter Blue subscription but is locked into it and the badge until next January because he paid up front for a full year of the service. “Now it’s just a Scarlet Letter,” he told us, sharing that some people have mocked him, while others remain neutral or appreciate his honesty about why he has it.
NBC4’s Tommy McFly says he subscribed to Twitter Blue so he can continue using text-based two-factor authentication for security purposes (unpaid users now need to use an authentication app instead). He refers to the fee he’s now paying as “ransom.” Asked what kind of reaction he’s gotten to his continued blue-check status, he says “you’re supposed to never read the comments, right?”
Geoff Tracy, who’s known as Chef Geoff and owns several DC restaurants, had a more humorous explanation when we reached him. “Tesla stock is down. Space rockets are blowing up. Thought I’d help a struggling guy out,” he said. “Plus I canceled my Hulu account, so it hasn’t had a big impact on my monthly budget.”
He added that his wife, CBS News anchor and managing editor Norah O’Donnell, has lost her verification status despite having hundreds of thousands more followers than he does. Though he joked that she is “much more impressed with me now” due to his check, he also pointed out that “I have been tweeting about bacon, speed cameras, dogs, and golf since 2009. I assumed at this point, everyone has already muted me.”