Twitter has removed labels describing global media organizations as government-funded or state-affiliated, a move that comes after the Elon Musk-owned platform started stripping blue verification checkmarks from accounts that don’t pay a monthly fee.
Among those no longer labeled was NPR in the U.S., which announced last week that it would stop using Twitter after its main account was designated as state-affiliated media, a term also used to identify media outlets controlled or heavily influenced by authoritarian governments, such as in Russia and China.
Twitter later changed the label to “government-funded media,” but NPR — which relies on the government for a tiny fraction of its funding — said it was still misleading.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and Swedish public radio made similar decisions to quit tweeting. CBC’s “government-funded” label vanished Friday, along with the state-affiliated tags on media accounts including Sputnik and RT in Russia and Xinhua News Agency in China.
Many of Twitter’s high-profile users Thursday lost the blue checkmarks that helped verify their identity and distinguish them from impostors.
Twitter had about 300,000 verified users under the original system, many of them journalists, athletes and public figures. The checks used to mean that the account was verified by Twitter to be who it says it is.
High-profile users who lost their blue checkmarks Thursday included Beyoncé, Pope Francis, Oprah Winfrey and former President Trump.
The costs of keeping the marks range from $8 a month for individual web users to a starting price of $1,000 monthly to verify an organization, plus $50 monthly for each affiliate or employee account. Twitter does not verify the individual accounts, as was the case with the previous blue check doled out during the platform’s pre-Musk administration.
Celebrity users, from basketball star LeBron James to author Stephen King and “Star Trek’s” William Shatner, have balked at joining — although on Thursday, all three had blue checks indicating that the account paid for verification.
King, for one, said he hadn’t paid.
“My Twitter account says I’ve subscribed to Twitter Blue. I haven’t. My Twitter account says I’ve given a phone number. I haven’t,” King tweeted Thursday. “Just so you know.”
In a reply to King’s tweet, Musk said, “You’re welcome namaste,” and in another tweet he said he’s “paying for a few personally.” He later tweeted that he was paying only for King, Shatner and James.
Singer Dionne Warwick tweeted earlier in the week that the site’s verification system “is an absolute mess.”
“The way Twitter is going anyone could be me now,” Warwick said. She had earlier vowed not to pay for Twitter Blue, saying the monthly fee “could (and will) be going toward my extra hot lattes.”
On Thursday, Warwick lost her blue check (which is actually a white checkmark against a blue background).
For users who still had a checkmark Thursday, a pop-up message indicated that the account “is verified because they are subscribed to Twitter Blue and verified their phone number.” Verifying a phone number simply means that the person has a phone number and they verified that they have access to it — it does not confirm the person’s identity.
It wasn’t just celebrities and journalists who lost their blue checks Thursday. Many government agencies, nonprofits and public-service accounts around the world found themselves no longer verified, raising concerns that Twitter could lose its status as a platform for getting accurate, up-to-date information from authentic sources, including in emergencies.
While Twitter offers gold checks for “verified organizations” and gray checks for government organizations and their affiliates, it’s not clear how the platform doles these out.