X verified badges begin appearing on ‘influential’ accounts

A number of prominent users of X, formerly Twitter, have been given complimentary blue verification badges despite not paying for the site’s Premium subscription, sparking confusion among users of the social media site.

Accounts with large numbers of verified followers who are paying subscribers to X are being given the badges, in what is the latest change to the site’s verification system since the platform was taken over by Elon Musk in late 2022.

According to messages received by a number of X users, the platform is handing out “a complimentary subscription to X Premium” if a user is deemed to be an “influential member of the the community” on the site.

Late last month, Mr Musk posted that X accounts with “over 2,500 verified subscriber followers will get Premium features for free” and accounts with more than 5,000 would be given complimentary Premium+, the highest subscription tier on the site.

The update appears to be the enactment of this policy.

The change is the company’s latest attempt to get more verified accounts on the platform, after Mr Musk replaced the original Twitter verification system with one where any user who paid a subscription fee could access the verification badge and see their posts be given more prominence on the site.

Under the old system, Twitter itself verified the authenticity of those who applied to receive the badge, with it being awarded to public figures, celebrities and businesses, as well as journalists, media organisations and government agencies.

The Musk-led changes to a subscription system made it harder for users to identify authentic accounts, and according to multiple online safety groups and pieces of research, has seen misinformation flourish on the platform since being introduced.

As a result, a number of advertisers have withdrawn or reduced their advertising on the platform, leaving X in need of new streams of revenue.

A number of recipients of the returning “blue tick”, including the News Agents podcast host Jon Sopel and comedian David Baddiel, took to the platform to express their surprise at the update to their accounts.

David Baddiel
David Baddiel took to the platform to express surprise at the update (PA)

Social media expert Matt Navarra said the update represented a “U-turn” from Mr Musk after he previously said the old Twitter verification system was unfair.

“Everything old is new again – it was only two years ago Elon Musk was saying that he was going to give power to the people and remove the lords and peasants system that Twitter had of bestowing a blue tick on influential users, and now we’re in 2024 and what is he doing? Giving blue ticks for free to influential users,” he told the PA news agency.

“So we get yet another U-turn, or perhaps a realisation from Elon that maybe some of the things that the previous administration had put in place were actually sensible, worthwhile and valuable.

“What’s also notable is that there was a time when people were desperate to get a blue tick and were pining to get that special signifier of importance on the platform.

“In 2024, under Elon Musk’s regime, people are far more resistant, and actually would quite like it if they didn’t get granted a tick and would rather hide it – which shows that rather than being a badge of honour or influence, it is much more a badge of dishonour and something that’s more of an embarrassment to people.

“I think that tells us a lot about where we are with X and Elon Musk.”

Elsewhere at the social media company, it has confirmed the appointment of Kylie McRoberts as the site’s new head of safety, nine months after her predecessor left the firm.