But would she pay for the privilege of the blue badge?
A plan put forward by new owner Elon Musk to start charging verified users – a group that includes A-list celebrities, corporate brands and little-known elected officials – for the previously free service and offer it more widely to the rest of the world has generated a heated debate.
And some of the loudest pushback comes from a group that arguably complains the most about Twitter while using it avidly: Journalists and other media personalities, many of whom say they’re disinclined to pay.
“Being verified doesn’t mean anything to me because I’ve never understood the point of verification as it exists now,” said Matt Pearce, a verified Los Angeles Times reporter with 155,000 followers. “But if the new point of verification is suddenly to help Twitter generate revenue, why should I help Twitter generate revenue? They’re already making ad money from the tweets that I and everyone else wrote for them for free.”
Twitter will charge $8 a month for verification. What you need to know.
Designed to counter the spread of misinformation and copycats, the brands have become, for critics, a symbol of elitism and liberal groupthink. The term “blue check crowd” is referred to as shorthand for privilege and snobbery. Musk himself scoffed at the concept in one tweets on Tuesdaywhich describes the current division between marked and unmarked as a “lords and peasants system.”
He framed his plan to add verification to the premium Twitter Blue program in revolutionary terms: “Power to the people! Blue for $8/month.”
Pearce sees the class dynamic a little differently, comparing his participation on Twitter to “the world’s longest unpaid internship” – and now “they want me to rent desk space”.
Twitter, which is full of parodies and troll accounts named after famous people, began handing out blue checks on an experimental basis in 2009, soon after its founding, amid complaints from the likes of baseball manager Tony LaRussa and rapper Kanye West that people were impersonating them. The first verified account: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It opened up the confirmation process to all comers in 2016, though it retained the final say on who qualified in a process that seemed largely mysterious to outsiders.
Mainstream news outlets, including The Washington Post, rushed to receive Twitter verification for their reporters, and Twitter granted many of those requests en masse, expanding the ranks of the blue-collar to include some relatively obscure people who happen to work in media.
There are now estimated to be more than 400,000 blue checks on Twitter, which includes accounts from Fencing Association of India (1,055 followers) to film director Ava DuVernay (2.6 million) to, yes, Elon Musk (113 million). Similar verification systems have since been adopted on other social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.
Meanwhile, the vast majority of Twitter’s 400 million accounts remain unverified, leading to no end of class conflict.
Had a dream when I was confirmed and my mom told me to take out the trash and I said Hire a maid because we can’t live like this anymore
— YaLocalWhiteBoy (@NoHoesGeorge) 24 August 2016
In some corners of Twitter is the check considered a status symbol and potentially a career enhancer. For example, lesser-known artists can achieve greater visibility with a tick next to their name
But an us-versus-them dynamic has become partisan in recent years. Some conservative users denigrate the “blue checker crowd” for their privilege and alleged liberal biases, despite the fact that almost all prominent Republicans are blue checkers. (says Twitter that accounts must be “authentic, notable and active” to qualify for verification.)
In the wake of Musk’s confirmation this week that he is considering a paid system, many blue checks have firmly rejected the idea — and some have vowed to leave Twitter if the system is implemented.
Meredith Haggerty, senior editor at Vox.com, framed the issue as a matter of opposing Musk, a publicly divisive billionaire who also runs Tesla and SpaceX. “I’m really happy to give up a blue check in the name of not giving [Musk] money,” she tweeted. “It’s the first time the blue check has ever had any value.”
Sportswriter Molly Knight noted the irony of Musk’s “gentlemen and peasants” comments, tweets at him: “So your plan to solve a ‘lords and peasants’ problem is to put a blue tick next to the names of people who can afford this service and give nothing to people who can’t. lol.”
In one of the most shared tweets of the past few days, author Stephen King suggested that he is more valuable to Twitter than Twitter is to him by virtue of his 6.9 million followers.
“$20 a month to keep my blue check?” King tweeted early Monday, citing early reporting on the proposed fees, adding an explicit. “They should pay me. If it is introduced, I’m gone. …”
In response, Musk, one of the world’s richest men, appeared to haggle: “We’ve got to pay the bills somehow!” he answered. “Twitter cannot completely rely on advertisers. How about $8?”
Some raised concerns about changes that would monetize or dilute the verification process.
“It is worth remembering what the purpose of the blue marks is: to confirm information on the platform” wrote journalist Adam Klasfeld in a tweet on Monday. “My account was impersonated twice while covering contentious court cases in [the U.S.] and Turkey, and both times the fake accounts were quickly detected and suspended.”
And if a significant number of blue tick badges decide to give up their badges rather than pay? It could be a recipe for chaos, some claim.
“I’m not a lawyer, but I bet the rise of impersonations will make Twitter (more) radioactive for advertisers, and accelerate [its] collapse,” political pundit and writer Rick Wilson told The Post in an online interview. He predicts it could exacerbate Twitter’s worst tendencies, turning it into “a gnawing Mad Max hellscape of alt-right morons.”
And where would everyone go to complain on Twitter? Jong-Fast, for all her hesitation about Musk’s plans, does not yet see the exits. “Until there’s another text-based social media company,” she said, “there’s nowhere to go.”