Voices: We’ve figured out a way to beat Twitter at its own game - by blocking people with blue ticks
In a way, Elon Musk has done us a favour by removing the verified status of most (though not quite all) the Twitter accounts not subscribing to his paid-for verification subscriber service, Twitter Blue.
What’s left, aside from a few mega-famous names that are easy enough to spot, seems to be a slice of the worst of the worst. There have been studies that have found that among the new blue-tickers (the ticks are actually white surrounded by a blue border, but let’s not get bogged down in the weeds) are “misinformation superspreaders”, and the roll out has been accompanied by an “unprecedented rise” in hate-speech.
Anecdotally, well … Twitter Blue Subscribers seem to be the worst of the platform. Which makes sense – those willing to subscribe tend to be the Musk fanboys and wannabe-influencers, bitter that were never able to get verified legitimately so now proudly crow about their paid-for tick. It’s like someone has bought your favourite football club, sacked all the players and brought in the Sunday league team from the kind of flat-roofed pub that has a vicious Alsatian barking at everyone who walks past.
The “blue tick” brand is now so toxic that those celebs who have kept their status through Musk’s grace are pretty desperate to let us know that they’re definitely not paying for the privilege. “You pay for Twitter” has become a point-and-laugh argument-winner, signalling that anyone weird enough to pay Musk $8 a month isn’t worth taking seriously enough to fight with.
The joy of this is that the worst people on Twitter are now extremely easy to spot, meaning they can be blocked on sight and their voice and opinions removed entirely from your feed forever. Twitter users are having “Block Parties”, rejoicing in a blocking extravaganza, sharing posts with high blue-tick engagement and search terms that weed out the worst-of-the-worst ("go woke go broke" or “#AllLivesMatter” followed by “filter:blue_verified”, for example, are good ones). The new algorithm that serves you verified accounts first means that the targets are extremely easy to find, and then they never bother you again.
It’s extremely satisfying. It feels like we’re gaining some semblance of control over the platform. It seems as if Musk has either massively dropped the ball on hate speech and toxicity, decided he doesn’t care about it, or has opted to actively empower the worst side of trolling.
Mass blocking is a way of taking back the power – personalising our Twitter experience and shaping it into something we can enjoy again. It feels like fighting back. Cheating the system.
It’s like some brilliant social media video game, with whiney trolls as zombies or goons. SMACK! Goodbye transphobe! POW! See-ya, minor-league alt-right provocateur! BIFF! So long, Libertarian! We’re now safe to click on some news about a Marvel movie without a guaranteed first reply from someone who thinks the franchise is being ruined by the presence of women. It feels good.
As Twitter power-user @Dril said this week, as he encouraged people to “#BlockTheBlue”: "blocking them and encouraging others to do the same on a massive scale is the complete opposite of what they want.” He added for good measure, “it’s funny.” I’m inclined to agree.