Elon Musk has been trying to drum up interest in the paid Twitter Blue subscription model amid financial difficulties at the social media giant.
Twitter has added blue check marks to a number of celebrities’ Twitter accounts, claiming they have paid for Twitter Blue subscription and verified their phone numbers - despite the celebrities being dead.
Kobe Bryant, Chadwick Boseman and Anthony Bourdain were among the accounts to have the Twitter Blue subscription added, on a weekend that saw further confusion at the social media giant under the ownership of Elon Musk.
Musk has been trying to drum up interest in the paid Twitter Blue subscription model, stripping legacy verified accounts of their blue ticks if they refuse to pay.
The costs of keeping the check marks range from $8 (7.26) a month for individual web users to a starting price of $1,000 (€908) monthly to verify an organisation, plus $50 (€45.40) monthly for each affiliate or employee account.
Under Twitter’s old leadership, verified accounts denoted that the user was notable in some way, and that their identity had been confirmed by the platform.
Now the blue check just signifies that an account has paid for it, and has verified they have access to a phone number - identities are not verified.
This has caused a marked increase in impersonation on the platform.
Verified against their will
Amid the ongoing confusion around verification on the platform, some Twitter users were pointing out that they were being given blue check marks despite not having paid nor confirmed a phone number.
These accounts included famous people such as the author Stephen King, and actor Ian McKellen.
Others have apparently been forcibly given a blue check mark for publicly mocking the system, such as journalist Matt Binder, who claimed he was not able to remove the Twitter Blue status that he had not paid for.
The hashtag #BlockTheBlue was trending briefly over the weekend as a campaign to block anyone with a Twitter Blue subscription gathered steam. An account @BlockTheBlue - which had 39,000 followers - was suspended by Twitter.
Accounts with blue check marks that haven’t paid for them continue to make it known that they didn’t pay for it, apparently not wanting people to think they had paid the platform any money.
And many accounts that have been inactive since the death of their owners were also given blue check marks with a label stating: “This account is verified because they are subscribed to Twitter Blue and verified their phone number”.
Governmental organisations impersonated
While Twitter is now offering gold checks for “verified organisations” and grey checks for government organisations and their affiliates, it was not always clear why some accounts had them and others did not.
Fake accounts claiming to represent Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the city’s Department of Transportation and the Illinois Department of Transportation all began sharing messages early on Friday falsely claiming that Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive - a major thoroughfare - would close to private traffic starting next month.
The fake accounts used the same photos, biographical text and home page links as the real ones.
The genuine accounts for Lightfoot and the transportation agencies did not have a blue or grey check mark as of Friday. Lightfoot’s office said the city is aware of the fake accounts and “working with Twitter to resolve this matter”. At least one was suspended Friday.
The blue checks debacle is just the latest in a series of problems at the social media giant since Tesla and SpaceX CEO Musk bought it for $44 billion (€40 billion) last year.
Twitter responded to a request for comment with a poo emoji.