Elon Removes Legacy Twitter Checkmarks…a Mistake?

I can’t believe it happened, but Elon kept his promise and removed all the legacy verified accounts that failed to pay $8. It’s not uncommon for management to make big promises but then delay or renege on it (this happens all the time in business), but Elon actually followed through on such a drastic change to the site.

My take: Not a smart move. ‘Legacy verified accounts’ are only a small percentage of the Twitter userbase…maybe just 400k as of 2021 out of half a billion monthly users. The legacy accounts should have simply been grandfathered in. The number of non-verified users who will pay for a blue check is huge relative to legacy accounts, so the potential revenue loss by grandfathering these legacy accounts and not paying $8 is immaterial, plus Elon pissed off some of Twitter’s most important users. I am sure LeBron James adds more value to Twitter in terms of engagement and advertising revenue than him paying $8.

There is one loophole though, which is to be an affiliate of a business or organization. Such users are verified automatically, no $8. I think the gold checkmark, which is for brands and is more expensive, will become the new blue checkmark owing to its relative rarity. Or if Elon pays the $8 himself, which has has done for certain celebrities like Stephen King.

Of course, impersonation is a major problem again. So we’re back to the same problem as in November 2022 when anyone could get verified. Now it’s the other way around: non-verified accounts impersonating accounts that are notable but no longer verified, such as Hillary Clinton, who lost her checkmark when the new change went into effect.

This has forced Elon to apply verification badges to impersonated accounts at his discretion, overriding the $8. So it’s like Elon reinvented the verification badge by reviewing the accounts himself and verifying those deemed notable and authentic enough, sans $8. If he were truly principled about it, Elon should have told Mr. King to pay up or get lost. But Mr. Musk found himself in a conundrum of having to balance principles vs. potential loss of revenue by angering or losing his most popular users, as well as impersonators causing chaos to the site.

It’s like Animal Farm…the new system is more dysfunctional than old one, and some ‘blue checks’ more equal than others, such as celebrities who didn’t have to pay $8. It should also give pause to who seek drastic political or regime change, as to the difficulties and unintended complications this may entail. On the other hand, there is less spam and more diversity of viewpoints, especially of the non-woke kind, so I give him a lot of credit for that.