Social Media

Who's who on Twitter? 'Verified' impostors blur the lines

Impostors have always been a problem on social media, but some worry that Twitter's new verification process is a step in the wrong direction.

A sign at Twitter headquarters.
Jeff Chiu / AP
SMS

Twitter's ubiquitous blue check mark, also known as the verified badge, has long been used as a symbol to help users identify who's real and who's not, but that could soon be changing.

The badge was traditionally given to verified accounts of celebrities, politicians, journalists, and other public figures or businesses that are prone to copycat accounts.

That's until Elon Musk took control of the platform last year and vowed to change the verification process.

Then Twitter announced the blue check mark would only be available for accounts that subscribe to Twitter Blue for $8 a month.

"On April 1st, we will begin winding down our legacy verified program and removing legacy verified checkmarks," the company said in a tweet. "To keep your blue check mark on Twitter, individuals can sign up for Twitter Blue."

The verification tool had generally required users to confirm their identity, but critics worry the new change will open the door for impostors who pay to play.

Many prominent Twitter accounts could lose blue check marks
Many prominent Twitter accounts could lose blue check marks
Related Story

Many prominent Twitter accounts could lose blue check marks

Blue check marks will still appear on Twitter, but users will now be charged $8 a month if they want to keep their check.

LEARN MORE

On Sunday, Monica Lewinsky tweeted a screenshot of an account using her name that was "verified because it's subscribed to Twitter Blue."

"In what universe is this fair to people who can suffer consequences for being impersonated," Lewinsky said. "A lie travels half way around the world before truth even gets out the door."

Actor William Shatner also shared his thoughts on the new policy change, tweeting directly to Musk:

Musk defended the policy change, saying "there shouldn't be a different standard for celebrities."

If you're an active Twitter user, then you're probably no stranger to accounts impersonating prominent figures and brands.

In November of last year, an account pretending to be the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly tweeted out a message, saying: "We are excited to announced insulin is free now."

The tweet stayed up for several hours and generated thousands of retweets. 

The account, which used the Eli Lilly logo and had a verified check mark from Twitter Blue, was eventually suspended, but the harm was already done.

Eli Lilly's stock plummeted 5% and billions of dollars were wiped from the company's value.

Impostors have always been a problem for social media platforms, but some worry that Twitter's new verification process is a step in the wrong direction that could lead to more negative impacts on prominent brands and figures.

Nonetheless, Musk is standing by his decision, saying paid social media is the best way to combat bot accounts.