Confusion over blue check as Twitter launches, then retracts, gray check

Confusion over blue check as Twitter launches, then retracts, gray check

As brand-new CEO Elon Musk experiments with changes at the company, major brands pause spending on the platform

Big blue check mark is shown on the screen of a mobile phone.

Confusion abounded on Wednesday over how Twitter will handle account verification or dole out “blue checks”, as the newly minted owner and CEO, Elon Musk, continues to make changes at the platform.

Twitter announced on Tuesday it would start offering gray ticks and an “official” label to high-profile accounts as it prepared to start allowing any user to sign up for its blue-tick verification badge by joining the firm’s Twitter Blue subscription service and paying a monthly fee. The badges had previously served as verification of a user’s identity.

On Wednesday morning, users on the platform woke up to find some pages belonging to high-profile users, including national political figures, news organizations and some prominent journalists, marked with the new grey ticks.

But just hours after the rollout, Musk responded to a tweet from YouTube product reviewer Marques Brownlee that he had “killed” the official tag , adding that the blue check will be the “great leveler”.

I just killed it

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 9, 2022

If that weren’t confusing enough, a Twitter employee in charge of early stage products, Esther Crawford, followed up with her own tweet saying the “official” label would still be rolled out as part of the impending Twitter Blue launch. What Musk meant, she said, was Twitter were not focusing on giving individuals that label as of yet and focusing on “government and commercial entities to begin with”.

The official label is still going out as part of the @TwitterBlue launch — we are just focusing on government and commercial entities to begin with. What you saw him mention was the fact that we’re not focusing on giving individuals the “Official” label right now.

— Esther Crawford ✨ (@esthercrawford) November 9, 2022

Musk later tweeted that Twitter users should expect the platform to experiment and “do lots of dumb things in coming months”, as he implements changes at the company. “We will keep what works and change what doesn’t,” he said.

Musk is the head of several companies, including Tesla and SpaceX. His ownership of Twitter marks the first time he has been in charge of a social media platform, an industry where features can be launched at the push of the button with little to no regulatory oversight.

Already, users have experienced some whiplash in just the two weeks since the billionaire officially purchased Twitter. While social media platforms typically beta-test products and features for weeks with a subset of users before launching them widely, Musk instead has tweeted through the changes, gathering opinions from and negotiating with people on the platform and then launching and quickly shifting away from specific products.

Please note that Twitter will do lots of dumb things in coming months.

We will keep what works & change what doesn’t.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 9, 2022

In addition to changes to the platform’s subscription services, there have been reports of internal conversations about adding options such as paid direct messages and paywalled videos and bringing back the short video service Vine.

The abrupt changes at Twitter in recent weeks have worried advertisers, with major brands such as General Mills pausing spending on the platform.

Musk initially threatened to name and shame advertisers that opted to pause their ad buys on the platform, and blamed advocacy and civil liberties groups concerned about content moderation and a proliferation of hate speech on Twitter for the drop in ad revenue.

Advertisers overwhelmingly cited their own concerns about volatility in how Twitter operates as well as changes in its its reputation could hurt their brands.

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.

Reuters contributed to this report

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Carol Avanci