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Twitter begins removing legacy verified check marks

The step has prompted fears that users will have one less tool to distinguish known sources from impersonators or hoaxes.
Photo Illustration: The Twitter check mark melting
Prominent figures from entertainers to journalists began losing their Twitter legacy check marks Thursday. Justine Goode / NBC News; Getty Images

It's the end of an era on Twitter.

Many users said Thursday they had lost their verified blue check marks, posting screenshots of their profiles sans verification.

Accounts with verified blue check marks had been awarded the badges by the company's previous leadership to identify accounts belonging to public organizations and high-profile users. The platform had initially said it would wind down the system on April 1. But the date passed and nothing happened. Then, last week, CEO Elon Musk announced a new date of April 20.

As of early Thursday afternoon, celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry and Kim Kardashian had lost their check marks. Prominent TV personalities such as CNN’s Christiane Amanpour and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow lost theirs, as well. Public figures relating to all sectors of society, from Bill Gates to Pope Francis, also lost their checks.

Congressional representatives appear to still have the gray government check mark on their official accounts, while some — such as Reps. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., Brian Mast, R-Fla., and Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. — have lost verification on their personal accounts. Others, like Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., still have the blue checks on their personal accounts.

As the removal process was underway Thursday, some users reported confusing glitches — they saw their blue check marks disappear, then reappear, only to disappear once again.

But most users whose check marks were removed were ready to say goodbye.

Actor Halle Berry posted a meme to commemorate the loss of her check mark.

"#BlueCheckMark," "Twitter Blue" and "Verified" trended on the platform in the U.S., with new tweets cropping up nearly every minute.

Twitter now describes verified accounts as “verified because they are subscribed to Twitter Blue and verified their phone number.” But as some legacy verified profiles continue to hold on to their check marks, the new language has prompted speculation that some celebrities have paid for Twitter Blue.

Some who have noticed the change on their profiles, including author Stephen King, have begun to tweet disclaimers stating that they did not, in fact, pay to keep their badges.

In a response to a tweet that reported "some celebrities have been offered a complimentary Twitter Blue subscription on behalf of Musk," the CEO responded that he's "paying for a few personally."

Musk later confirmed that he was paying for the verification of actor William Shatner, NBA star LeBron James and King.

As of Thursday evening, previously verified accounts still appear in search results that specify “filter:verified.”

The removal of the check marks is the latest step by Musk to remake Twitter since he bought it in October for $44 billion, casting himself as the steward of an essential public forum while driving off some of the well-known people who used it. 

The move has already prompted fears that Twitter users will have one less tool to distinguish known sources from impersonators or hoaxes.

The check marks, which were free, are now available through Twitter Blue — a subscription service the company launched last year.

The $8-per-month service, which also allows users to edit and undo tweets, was quickly pulled after impersonators flourished. It was relaunched in December.

Verification badges are removed through a mostly manual process, and the system that powers that process is prone to breaking, The Washington Post reported. NBC News has not verified that reporting.

Twitter first began adding verification labels to certain accounts in 2009 after someone on the service impersonated baseball manager Tony La Russa and La Russa sued the company. 

The blue badges reassured some people that at least some of what they saw on Twitter came from a credible or at least well-known source, such as a government agency, news organization, corporation, entertainer or athlete. 

But over time, who was granted verification became an increasing source of conflict and envy. The term “blue checks” became internet slang for a class of elites. Twitter froze the program for four years to consider changes before resuming it in 2021, largely as it had been. 

Musk has said that he wanted to see changes to the check marks since last April, even before he offered to buy Twitter. 

On Wednesday and Thursday, many users prepared for the check's removal.

"please connect w/ me elsewhere… insta MONICA_LEWINSKY and most of the other new places that have real verification under my name," Monica Lewinsky tweeted.

"Screenshot this in case it’s not there tomorrow," “Star Wars” actor Mark Hamill wrote, adding a blue check mark emoji.

"Goodbye, blue check. I will pathetically seek validation from mere friends and loved ones," wrote another Twitter user.