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Twitter slaps New York Times’ verified mark on Elon Musk’s orders




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Twitter removed the “verified” badge from the New York Times’ main account on Sunday, a move that billionaire owner Elon Musk pushed overnight after learning the news organization would not pay for its Twitter Blue service.

The move continues Musk’s years-old grudge against American journalists who have reported critically on him, and it will increase the risk of impersonation. It’s also at odds with an internal plan, first reported by the Times on Thursday, to keep the brands of its 10,000 most-followed organizations, regardless of whether they paid.

Twitter had said it would begin phasing out its traditional verification program starting Saturday, removing the blue check icons it has used for years on the accounts of verified companies, journalists and public figures.

Instead, Twitter is implementing a pay-to-play system that will give the brand to anyone who pays for it — money the company desperately needs to make up for its declining ad revenue and billions of dollars in debt. Twitter Blue will cost users around $8 a month, while businesses that want verification will be charged 1000 dollars a month.

As of Sunday morning, The Times — Twitter’s 24th most followed account, with more than 54 million followers — was one of only a few dozen accounts to actually see the tag removed, according to data collected by Travis Brown, a software developer who has been tracking the changes.

Twitter’s blue chin was loved and loathed. Now it’s pay for play.

The move appears to have been personally directed or encouraged by Musk, who had done it answered late Saturday night to a meme that outlined the Times’ decision not to pay for Twitter verification by saying, “Okay, okay, we’ll take it off.”

The Times, The Washington Post and other news organizations said Thursday that they would not pay for verification for their news organizations or reporters, although the Times said there may be some rare exceptions where the brand could “be critical for reporting purposes.”

Asked about the move Sunday, a Times spokesperson reiterated that the news organization still “does not plan to pay the monthly tick status fee for our institutional Twitter accounts.”

Musk did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

It was unclear why other accounts still had their badge. The Post reported Friday that removing verification marks would require extensive manual work because of the company’s error-prone software, which a former employee described as “everything held together with duct tape.”

In a deleted tweet from early Sunday morning, Musk had so the company would give verified accounts “a grace period of a few weeks, unless they say they don’t want to pay now, in which case we’ll remove it.”

Musk also tweeted several attacks on the Times overnight, saying “their propaganda isn’t even interesting.”

Twitter, as a company policy imposed by Musk, no longer responds to reporters’ questions on any topic. In December, it suspended several journalists, including this reporter, for tweeting about the company’s sudden suspensions of accounts that shared public data about the flights of Musk’s private jet.

Elon Musk’s Twitter pushes hate speech, extremist content onto ‘For You’ pages

Although Musk said on Friday that he wants to make Twitter “the most trusted place on the internet,” the move is likely to make it harder for Twitter users to distinguish between legitimate and fake accounts. Pranksters and trolls on the platform have already started changing their names and images to impersonate celebrities, businesses and politicians.

One account, which used the Times’ name and photo, tweeted: “Twitter sources say Elon Musk is petty,” along with a string of statements.

While the Times’ main account no longer has a check mark, the accounts for the other properties still do.

So do the accounts of celebrities, including basketball icon LeBron James, who tweeted on Friday to his more than 52 million followers, “Well, guess my blue [check mark] will be gone soon because if you know me, I don’t pay the 5.”





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