Twitter revives blue checkmark for some celebrities, including dead ones

Twitter reversed a major change to its subscription policy over the weekend.

April 24, 2023, 1:12 PM

Twitter reversed a major change to its subscription policy over the weekend by reverifying some legacy accounts, including ones belonging to dead celebrities like Michael Jackson and Kobe Bryant.

The Elon Musk-owned social media platform last week removed blue checkmark verification from its legacy users as part of revamp of Twitter Blue, a subscription service that grants purchasers the site's signature checkmark and additional posting capabilities.

However, the company appeared to return the verification checkmark for some popular accounts over the weekend, eliciting outcry from some widely followed users who clarified that they had not paid for the service.

In addition, Twitter appeared to reverify accounts for some dead celebrities, including Anthony Bourdain, Chadwick Boseman and Norm Macdonald, among others.

It was not immediately known whether Twitter reverified the accounts or individuals operating the accounts on behalf of the deceased figures had subscribed to Twitter Blue.

Twitter did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, said that he personally paid for subscriptions for accounts belonging to basketball star Lebron James, actor William Shatner and author Steven King. In a tweet, King called on Musk to "give my blue check to charity."

James received an email from a Twitter employee informing him that Musk had paid for a complimentary subscription but James did not respond to the email, the Verge reported.

Chrissy Teigen, a model with nearly 13 million Twitter followers, reacted to the return of some legacy verification check marks in a tweet: "wait I'm crying they're giving them for punishment now."

Teigen, like some other celebrities, appeared to remove the check mark by briefly altering their Twitter handles, the usernames anchored to their accounts.

Previously, Twitter verified celebrities, politicians, journalists and prominent figures on a case-by-case basis in an effort to authenticate their identities and prevent impersonation.

Under Twitter's new subscription service, users gain access to account verification for an $8 monthly fee, which amounts to $96 per year.

"Until now, Twitter used the blue checkmark to indicate active, notable, and authentic accounts of public interest," the company said on its website.

The Twitter logo at their offices in New York, Jan. 12, 2023.
Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

Twitter delayed by a few days the initial release of a revamped Twitter Blue in November over concerns about impostor accounts posing as prominent figures or organizations.

To address impostors, Musk said the site would permanently suspend users who attempt to impersonate others, unless the speech is clearly marked as parody.

The reversal of the subscription policy change for some legacy users marks the latest shift at Twitter since Musk acquired the company in October for $44 billion.

Days after Musk purchased Twitter, the company began layoffs that ultimately cut roughly 75% of its 7,500-person workforce, raising concerns about Twitter's capacity to maintain its platform.

Twitter suffered a user outage in February that lasted for hours and required an emergency fix, prompting an apology from the company.

The outage came hours after Twitter announced that subscribers to Twitter Blue would be permitted to post longer messages than other users.

For his part, Musk has defended his actions at Twitter as part of an aggressive effort to rescue the company from financial peril, which he described in a Twitter Spaces interview in December as an "emergency fire drill."

"That's the reason for my actions," he added. "They may seem sometimes spurious or odd or whatever."

The policy change over legacy verification came during a difficult week for Musk, who watched on Thursday as a SpaceX rocket Starship exploded minutes after takeoff.

Still, Musk congratulated the workers behind the rocket launch and vowed to try again later this year.

"Learned a lot for next test launch in a few months," Musk tweeted.