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Twitter removes verification badges from non-paying ‘legacy’ verified accounts including celebrities, reporters and even the pope

Elon Musk’s Twitter on Thursday began a purge of blue verification check marks from users who have not signed up for its subscription service, with the checks disappearing from the accounts of journalists, academics and celebrities.

The blue checks even disappeared from the accounts of some of the most well-known and widely followed people on the social network, including Kim Kardashian, Beyonce, Pope Francis, former president Donald Trump and Twitter founder Jack Dorsey.

The initial rollout of the change appeared to be fairly glitchy, as blue checks disappeared and reappeared on some accounts. Some other high-profile legacy verified accounts also didn’t seem to lose their checks, at least at first.

 The change — and its confusing rollout — threatens to create an even greater risk of impersonation of high-profile users and confusion over the veracity of information on the platform.

Twitter had previously said it would “begin winding down” blue checks granted under its old verification system — which emphasized protecting high-profile users at risk of impersonation — on April 1. In order to stay verified, Musk said, users would have to pay $8 per month to join the platform’s Twitter Blue subscription service, which has allowed accounts to pay for verification since December.

Instead, Twitter removed the check mark from a single account from The New York Times, a publication Musk has repeatedly criticized, and changed the language on its site in a way that obscures why users are verified.

Last week, Musk tweeted that the “final date for removing legacy Blue checks is 4/20,” a date with special resonance to the billionaire entrepreneur given its meaning to marijuana enthusiasts.

The decision to move forward with the change, after some confusing messaging, is just the latest example of Musk’s Twitter upending the experience for users — and in this case, not just any users, but many of the most high-profile accounts that have long been a key selling point for the platform.

Prominent users such as actor William Shatner and anti-bullying activist Monica Lewinsky have previously pushed back against the idea that, as power users that draw attention to the site, they should have to pay for a feature that keeps them safe from impersonation.

Musk, for his part, has previously presented changes to Twitter’s verification system as a way of “treating everyone equally.”

“There shouldn’t be a different standard for celebrities,” he said in an earlier tweet. The paid feature could also drive revenue, which could help Musk, who is on the hook for significant debt after buying Twitter for $44 billion. 

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