How to avoid getting tricked by a fake Tony Blair

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 21: Tony Blair, Executive Chairman of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, TBI & former Prime Minister, United Kingdom, speaks on stage during The UK at Conjuncture at The 2022 Concordia Annual Summit - Day 3 at Sheraton New York on September 21, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Concordia Summit)
Tony Blair was impersonated by a 'verified' account on Twitter. (Getty Images)

Elon Musk's plan to allow Twitter users to pay for their own "verification" has been controversial to say the least.

The so-called "blue tick" used to be a way of verifying the accounts of celebrities, journalists, politicians, other public figures, companies and institutions so people knew they weren't being impersonated.

But now anyone can buy one for £6.99 a month through the new Twitter Blue service, prompting warnings it would give an opportunity for scam artists looking to give themselves an air of legitimacy.

Here, Yahoo News UK explains the backlash surrounding Musk's changes to Twitter.

Why Elon wanted a change When Elon Musk completed his $44 billion takeover of Twitter, he vowed to change what he described as the "lords and peasants" system. In other words, he didn't think it was fair that famous people and public figures got to enjoy the elevated status of a blue tick while others didn't have that privilege.

Elon Musk 'lords and peasants' tweet
Elon Musk said he wanted to change the social hierarchy of Twitter.

Why was there backlash? Not long after Musk announced his plan, people were quick to point out that it would render the whole idea of verification meaningless if anyone could set up a profile in someone else's name with a blue tick.

Blue tick backlash tweet
People could see this coming. (Twitter)

Free (?) speech Musk had already stated that taking over the controls at Twitter would make it a haven for free speech and that he would crack down on censorship on the platform. However, as Twitter Blue subscribers' tweets are amplified, critics have questioned why users should be given a louder voice over others simply for paying $8 a month.

AOC Tweet
Elon Musk's commitment to free speech was questioned by US representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. (Twitter)

A rocky start Paid-for verification badges became available for the first time in the UK today, following the US and New Zealand a few days earlier. Already people have abused the system, with a fake Nintendo account (with a blue tick) sharing a picture of Mario giving the finger, and a bogus Rockstar Games account announcing the next Grand Theft Auto.

Fake Mario tweet
Posts like this would understandably make advertisers jumpy. (Twitter)

Tony + George Another example was two "verified" parody accounts of Tony Blair and George W. Bush chatting on Twitter about how they "miss killing Iraqis". Again, while it perhaps isn't that difficult to identify these as fake accounts, both had a blue tick and were clearly aimed at subverting Musk's new paid-for way of working.

Fake George W. Bush tweet
Would the real George W. Bush tweet this?

Exposing a flaw While the fake Blair and Bush were swiftly suspended by Twitter, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that such a 'whackamole' approach isn't the most sensible. Indeed, Twitter is now blocking new accounts from signing up to Twitter Blue in an attempt to manage the issue.

Fake Tony is no more.
Fake Tony is no more.

So what can users do? As well as a name in bold, each Twitter user will also have a handle displayed underneath it on their profile. This is always preceded by an @, and is used to tag people in posts. In the case of the fake Tony Blair, the profile's handle was "@MPTonyBlair". Given that Blair hasn't been an MP since 2007, and that usernames can be changed on Twitter, it seems unlikely that an ex-PM would be using this.

Check the bio Checking out what the user has written in their bio could help to reveal if they are an impersonator. For example, the fake George W. Bush's account had "So what if I did 9/11" in its bio, which you wouldn't expect a former president to say.

Check the follower count A screenshot taken before the fake George W Bush account was deleted shows it was following 65 people and had 519 followers. Ask yourself if this is really the number you'd expect for a former US president with such a high profile.

Look elsewhere If something doesn't seem right, you can always try a website other than Twitter to verify the account of a politician, celebrity or sportsperson. For example, a quick look at rapper Stormzy's website shows links to all of his socials on the left hand side of the homepage.

Stormzy's website. (
Stormzy's website. (

Check that blue tick You can also check how somebody or an organisation actually acquired its verification. Click on the blue tick attached to an account and it will reveal whether it was paid for (as per 'Tony Blair') or whether Twitter has confirmed its identity (Such as Yahoo News UK).

How verified is verified?
How verified is verified?

Look out for duplicate or copied tweets - If you take a look at a profile's replies, you might see they've been sending the same message to multiple people. Ask yourself if Kim Kardashian or Billie Eilish would really be spending their time doing this. Copy and texting part of a tweet might reveal it's a spam message posted by several accounts, in which case, it's unlikely to be a genuine message.