In the six months since Elon Musk finalized the Twitter acquisition, the billionaire has turned the platform on its head by overhauling how it decides which accounts to check.
Once issued to authenticate a limited number of accounts from celebrities, government agencies and media organizations, the coveted checkmark is now available for purchase through Twitter Blue’s subscription service. The result: more checks and more confusion.
There were at least 550,000 Twitter Blue followers as of April 23, according to estimates provided to CNN by Travis Browne, a Berlin-based software developer, just days after Musk stripped all users of the outdated blue checks. In comparison, over 400,000 accounts were verified with stale blue checks prior to being cleared.
But with Musk gifting the favor to some celebrities, it’s unclear how much customers are actually paying. It’s also unclear how much more Twitter can increase followers, which Musk has made the centerpiece of his plan to boost Twitter’s revenue.
The change in Twitter’s review process is just one of the many ways Musk has rocked the company since taking over Twitter in October. He fired 80% of his staff and changed the site’s policies, drawing criticism for how the moves could affect security and transparency. Many top advertisers have left the platform, and Musk valued it at about $20 billion last month, less than half of what he paid for it.
But one of Musk’s boldest and most ambitious changes was Twitter Blue. Advertised as a successor to the old checkout system, the subscription model allows anyone to pay $8 a month for a blue badge and other features like priority ranking in conversations and search.
The backlash was swift. Twitter Blue has sowed chaos and confusion. The program was initially suspended just a few days after it was launched, when the account impersonate Pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Company tweeted that “insulin is now free,” sending stocks plummeting.
More recently, the removal of blue checks has brought about a cultural change on the platform. Once a popular status symbol, many users find the blue badge not cool anymore. Last week, after the blue tick started appearing on prominent accounts, celebs like Lil Nas X and Chrissy Teigen furiously rejected service payment.
Here’s a look at the rise and fall of the blue Twitter badge: