After originally announcing that ‘legacy’ blue checkmarks would be removed from the app from April 1st, Twitter chief Elon Musk has now announced that the actual date for removal of all legacy checkmarks will be April 20th - which continues his long history of referencing 4/20 in his public actions.
Final date for removing legacy Blue checks is 4/20— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 11, 2023
Elon apparently finds references to 4/20, an unofficial holiday for cannabis culture, hilarious – though his ex-partner Grimes says that he only found out about 4/20 a few years back.
Regardless, 4/20 is now D-day for legacy blue ticks, which Twitter says will address corruption and inequity within its previous verification system.
Though it seems more likely driven by spite, with Musk taking no small amount of joy in removing the checkmark from accounts that he doesn’t like, particularly publishers that he considers biased or overtly against him.
Indeed, among the few accounts that actually did have their blue checkmark removed on April 1st was The New York Times, which Musk has labeled ‘propaganda’.
The real tragedy of @NYTimes is that their propaganda isn’t even interesting— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 2, 2023
Musk has also described removing checkmarks from legacy accounts as ‘glorious’, though the corruption and systemic failures in the old checkmark approval process don’t seem anywhere near as problematic as Musk suggests.
It will also negate the perceived value that Musk is selling with his $8 verification package. The idea, as Musk has communicated, is that regular users will be able to be like celebrities by getting their own blue tick, which has long been a status symbol of sorts within the app, a recognition of notoriety or fame. Those qualifiers have put it out of the reach of regular people – but now, anyone will be able to buy one, but that, conversely, will also make the checkmark itself meaningless in this context.
It’s worth noting, too, that there actually isn’t any verification involved, with Twitter only relying on ‘payment verification’ – i.e. a users’ capacity to pay – as a qualifier for the new blue tick. Musk’s view is that this will serve as a means to highlight real people in the app, but it’s a fundamental change in what the checkmark represents, which is unlikely to hold the same level of status in future.
That’s at least somewhat reflected in the take-up numbers for Twitter Blue thus far. At most recent count, Twitter now has around 600k paying users, which equates to 0.24% of the platform’s overall user base. Only around 4.3% of legacy checkmark holders have signed up following Musk’s initial removal threat, so it doesn’t seem like we’re going to see a big influx of Blue subscribers ahead of the new deadline.
But Twitter’s moving ahead with the change anyway, while from next week, it will also implement its new algorithmic push, with the only tweets appearing in its ‘For You’ feed recommendations coming from paying subscribers, adding another incentive to the program.
Though I suspect that won’t be a big motivator either. Research has shown that the majority of Twitter users never tweet, a fact that Musk himself has acknowledged, which renders any amplification incentive fairly meaningless for most of the platform’s 250 million users. In fact, it may see them even less likely to tweet, as they won’t get much reach for their content anyway. So why bother? While the ‘For You’ feed could become even less valuable, as it’s crowded with Elon fanboys and brand accounts, many of which have been gifted verification under Twitter’s new system.
It seems like a net negative, but maybe, Elon knows something we don’t. Maybe take-up for Twitter Blue will rise as a result, with the most active accounts keen to maximize their tweet reach, and maybe they’re just holding out for now because the penalty of not signing up has been unclear.
We’ll find out soon, as we now have an official time frame for the next stage of Twitter’s subscription push.