In a move that has sparked controversy among high-profile Twitter users, The New York Times‘ main account has lost its verification check mark. The blue check marks are used to verify the identity of Twitter accounts and distinguish them from impostors on the social media platform.
The removal of the check mark on The New York Times’ main account comes as many high-profile users brace themselves for the loss of their own blue check marks. Twitter CEO Elon Musk set a deadline of Saturday for verified users to buy a premium subscription or risk losing their verified status. The Times refused to pay for verification of its institutional accounts, leading to the removal of the check mark on Sunday.
Musk, who owns Twitter, tweeted early Sunday that The New York Times’ check mark would be removed. Later, he posted disparaging remarks about the newspaper, which has aggressively reported on Twitter and on flaws with partially automated driving systems at Tesla, the electric car company that Musk also runs.
The Times issued a statement saying that it has no plans to pay the monthly fee for check mark status for its institutional Twitter accounts. The newspaper also said it would not reimburse reporters for Twitter Blue for personal accounts, except in rare instances where this status would be essential for reporting purposes. Other Times accounts, such as its business news and opinion pages, still had either blue or gold check marks as of Sunday, as did multiple reporters for the news organisation.
The Associated Press, which has said it also will not pay for the check marks, still had them displayed on its accounts as of midday Sunday. Twitter did not answer the Associated Press’ emailed questions about the removal of The New York Times check mark.
The costs of keeping the check marks range from $8 a month for individual web users to a starting price of $1,000 monthly to verify an organisation, plus $50 monthly for each affiliate or employee account. Twitter does not verify the individual accounts to ensure they are who they say they are, as was the case with the previous blue check doled out to public figures and others during the platform’s pre-Musk administration.
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Many celebrity users, including basketball star LeBron James and Star Trek’s William Shatner, have balked at joining Twitter Blue. American sitcom Seinfeld actor Jason Alexander has even pledged to leave the platform if Musk takes away his blue check.
The White House has also passed on enrolling in premium accounts, according to a memo sent to staff. While Twitter has granted a free grey mark for President Joe Biden and members of his cabinet, lower-level staff won’t get Twitter Blue benefits unless they pay for it themselves.
Musk has been trying to boost Twitter’s struggling revenue by pushing more people to pay for a premium subscription. However, his move to eliminate the blue verification marks reflects his assertion that they have become an undeserved or “corrupt” status symbol for elite personalities, news reporters, and others granted verification for free by Twitter’s previous leadership.
One of Twitter’s main reasons for marking profiles with a blue check mark was to verify politicians, activists, and people who had suddenly found themselves in the news, as well as little-known journalists at small publications around the globe, as an extra tool to curb misinformation coming from accounts impersonating people.
While the costs of Twitter Blue subscriptions might seem like nothing for Twitter’s most famous commentators, for many, it raises concerns of access to information and stifling of free speech. It remains to be seen how the removal of blue check marks will affect Twitter’s user base and revenue.