April 1 is the dumbest day on the internet, and this year, it’s not just because brands will try to prank you by selling “hot iced coffee.” Starting on Saturday, Twitter will begin removing blue checks from “legacy verified” users if they don’t sign up for a Twitter Blue subscription. This is part of new owner Elon Musk’s grand plan to make Twitter profitable, but this particular scheme has a glaring issue: if anyone with $8 per month can get a blue check, the symbol won’t be cool anymore (and also disinformation will proliferate, but Musk doesn’t seem super worried about that).
Twitter initially launched its verification system in 2009 to protect celebrities from impersonation. Someone made an account pretending to be former St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, but instead of just asking for the account to be taken down, La Russa sued Twitter. And so, the three-year-old company introduced its iconic blue check badge.
Now, we’ve come full circle. Celebrities are a day away from losing their verification badges, and you might think they would lament the loss of this symbol that was literally created to protect them. Unfortunately for Musk, paying for Twitter Blue is cheugy, so some celebrities have spoken out to say that they won’t be paying for a blue check.
At the beginning of the month, the musician Ice Spice weighed in: “1M on here is heavy blue check wya :’)”
What she means is that people will know she is who she says she is, since a scam account couldn’t compete with her 1.2 million followers. She has a point, but we know that people don’t always click on your profile when they’re not sure you’re real — they might just believe that insulin is free now (it is not).
In that chaotic first few days of Twitter’s new verification program — a time when anyone could instantly get a blue check, change their handle, and impersonate others — basketball superstar LeBron James was one of the first celebrities to be impersonated. On an account verified with Twitter Blue, someone pretending to be James posted that he was requesting a trade from the Los Angeles Lakers back to the Cleveland Cavaliers. This was not true, but the news spread anyway.
James still doesn’t want to pay for a blue check, he said on Twitter.
James is the highest-paid NBA player of all time, earning over $40 million per year. That makes it all the more hilarious that he won’t pay.
For some celebrities, it’s not about the $8. It’s about the principle of it. Actor William Shatner tweeted at Musk, “Now you’re telling me that I have to pay for something you gave me for free?”
But also, everyone knows how uncool they will look if they pay to be verified. Michael Thomas, a wide receiver for the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, summed it up best: “Don’t nobody want that raggedy blue check no way anymore 😂”
This year’s Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes II, also an extremely well-paid athlete, joked that he can’t pay the $8 because he has kids to take care of.
Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Darius Slay made an excellent point (and also, he is on the best team in the NFL, don’t fact-check me, this is true). If someone wants to impersonate him, then maybe raging Philly fans will accidentally tweet their complaints to the wrong person.
Other stars took the time to tell their followers that even if they lose their check, they are who they say they are… but they still don’t want to pay for verification. Monica Lewinsky posted a set of screenshots showing what happens when you search her name on Twitter. There are already many impersonators, some of whom have a paid blue check.
She added, “in what universe is this fair to people who can suffer consequences for being impersonated? a lie travels half way around the world before truth even gets out the door.”
“Seinfeld” actor Jason Alexander said that if he loses his check, he will leave the platform altogether, since he is worried about impersonation.
Even New Order bassist Peter Hook weighed in. The 67-year-old Brit earnestly reminded his followers that he will never sell anything to fans via DM.
Impersonation is clearly the biggest concern among celebrities (… and journalists), but there are other benefits to Twitter Blue beyond the blue check. According to Musk, only verified users’ tweets will be shown in the “For You” feed. Still, we can’t imagine LeBron is too worried about getting eyes on his tweets. The dude has 52 million followers.