Update (4/24/23): Following the publication of this article, Twitter enrolled thousands of high-profile accounts into Twitter Blue, even if they did not pay for the service, including some of the accounts mentioned below: NBC News, The Guardian, the Auschwitz Museum, and the New York City government’s official account. However, many high-profile accounts of politicians, important public agencies, and news outlets remain unverified, including Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and The Intercept. Twitter has been silent on this policy change, though many have speculated that the company doled out Twitter Blue subscriptions to accounts with more than 1 million followers.
On Thursday, Twitter began removing blue check verification badges from the profiles of celebrities, news outlets, and other high-profile accounts across the platform. As those legacy blue checks expired, Twitter continues to sell verification badges to just about anyone willing to pay a monthly fee. Media Matters found right-wing extremists, conspiracy theorists, and misinformers were given verification badges on Twitter while reputable news sources, government health channels, and others no longer have them.
Since purchasing Twitter in late October, CEO Elon Musk has overseen the platform’s descent into utter chaos. Musk began his tenure as CEO by disbanding the company’s Trust and Safety Council, suspending his critics’ accounts, and reinstating the accounts of dozens of election misinformers and conspiracy theorists. In December, a Media Matters analysis found that 28% of the 50 most followed accounts reinstated on Twitter pushed right-wing misinformation. (Musk has also made a habit of boosting QAnon conspiracy theorists and spreading right-wing conspiracy theories from his personal account.)
In November, Twitter temporarily paused Twitter Blue — its $8 a month blue check verification system that is available to all users — just days after launching the system and a slew of fake verified accounts flooded the platform. Since relaunching Twitter Blue, the company has failed at vetting accounts from harmful actors. In recent months, the company verified accounts associated with the Taliban, QAnon-supporting accounts, and users affiliated with white nationalist groups, including an account that used a racial slur in its username.
With the end of legacy verification on April 20, another wave of misinformation and confusion has swept the platform. Media Matters found Twitter has repeatedly verified the accounts of COVID-19 conspiracy theorists, election deniers, anti-LGBTQ organizations, and anti-abortion groups while removing verification from the accounts of government agencies and reputable news outlets, which provide reliable, and in some cases, lifesaving information.
Covid-19 misinformers are verified while several government health agencies are not
Anti-abortion outlets vs. abortion advocacy groups
Election deniers vs. election agencies
Mike Lindell and Rudy Giuliani, who are fequent purveyors of 2020 election misinformation, are both verified on Twitter, but government resources such as the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and the Chicago Board of Elections, which provide voters with critical information about heading to the polls, are not.
Antisemitic accounts vs. Auschwitz Memorial
Several accounts posting antisemitic tweets appear to be verified under Twitter Blue, while the official account for the Auschwitz Memorial had its verification removed.
Verified account Unverified account pic.twitter.com/6MLJWU6sAV
— Elad Nehorai (@EladNehorai) April 21, 2023
Right-wing media organizations vs. reputable news organizations
Anti-LGBTQ activists vs. LGBTQ lifelines
Some Twitter users have reported seeing accounts impersonating the official New York City Government page and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
— John Scott-Railton (@jsrailton) April 20, 2023
A fake mayor of Chicago account replying to the fake Chicago department of transportation. If you are not familiar with the accounts looking at the names is not enough, you need to look at the follower count pic.twitter.com/20nGgLmXa3
— Marc-André Argentino, PhD (@_MAArgentino) April 21, 2023