Twitter’s ‘Blue Check’ drama is a verified mess

The 'winding down' of legacy verified accounts is going about as well as you'd expect.
Users can't discern paid versus unpaid verified accounts now. Avishek Das/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The “winding down” of Twitter’s Legacy Verified accounts supposedly began over the weekend. However, the only blue checkmark to take the hit so far appears to be the one for The New York Times—at CEO Elon Musk’s personal direction after a user’s meme brought it to his attention.

A spokesperson for The New York Times confirmed on Sunday the media company would decline to pay $12,000 a year for its verification badge. Upon apparently hearing the news, Musk responded, “Oh ok, we’ll take it off then.” It is unclear if Musk’s information source, DogeDesigner , is verified via the legacy system, or a paid Twitter Blue subscriber. It is now impossible to distinguish between the two tiers.

Let the confusion begin. Credit: Twitter.

[Related: Twitter Blue is back and more confusing than ever.]

Twitter has granted verified statuses to thousands of individuals and organizations deemed “notable” since 2009, including governmental bodies, celebrities, professional journalists, and official corporate accounts. The simple system, while not perfect, for years helped users distinguish authentic accounts from imposters, scammers, and parodies. 

Since Musk assumed control of the social media platform in October 2022, Twitter has ushered in a dizzying flurry of updates , backtracks, and conflicting alterations to the verification program, which Musk has described as “corrupt and nonsensical.”

Amid last month’s verification requirement alterations, Twitter announced organizations such as news outlets could retain their gold “organization” badges—part of a recent color-coded policy shift—by ponying up $1,000 a month. The New York Times isn’t alone in skipping the expense— representatives from outlets like The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and Politico have said the companies would also not pay for the designation.

[Related: TikTok is taking on the conspiracy theorists.]

The main account for The New York Times now lacks a verification badge, but subsections such as Books , Arts , and Travel still retain their statuses. That said, both Arts and Travel show gold badges—while Books still boasts a blue checkmark. What’s more, blue ticks are now apparently reserved for both legacy verified users and Twitter Blue subscribers. Previously, clicking an individual account’s blue verification symbol showed whether it was a non-paying account, or one paying $8 per month for Musk’s “premium” Twitter experience.

As The Washington Post explained on Friday, the legacy phase-out delay may stem from a “largely manual process by a system prone to breaking.” Described as “similar to an Excel spreadsheet,” the verification database is reportedly “held together with duct tape,” according to one anonymous former employee. 

Twitter is currently worth around $20 billion, according to a recent internal memo. Musk paid $44 billion for the company in October 2022.