Twitter briefly rolled out gray 'official' check marks before Elon Musk changed his mind

Twitter has been met with widespread criticism over its plan to change the meaning of the blue check mark

ByBrian Fung, CNN, CNNWire
Thursday, November 10, 2022
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Twitter on Saturday launched a subscription service for $7.99 a month that includes a blue check now given to verified accounts.

A new verification mark intended to better identify prominent Twitter accounts has instead become the latest source of chaos at the company under new owner Elon Musk.

The video featured is from a previous report.

Just hours after the feature's debut, Musk abruptly said Wednesday he had "killed" a new, gray verification badge designed to label government accounts, major brands and media outlets, adding to the turmoil at one of the world's most influential social media companies.

The new badge, which consisted of a gray check mark and the word "Official" placed underneath account handles belonging to Twitter, the United Nations and media outlets including CNN, was first introduced on Tuesday evening.

The feature was created to differentiate "select" identity-verified accounts from the blue check marks that Twitter has said it will soon offer to paying users for $8 per month, tweeted Esther Crawford, a director of product management at the company.

The new badge began rolling out early Wednesday morning. But by late morning, users began noticing that the badge had vanished.

RELATED: Twitter news: Company to now delay $8 'blue check' subscription plan until after midterms

"I just killed it," Musk tweeted in response to a tweet about the disappearances. Musk added: "Please note that Twitter will do lots of dumb things in coming months. We will keep what works & change what doesn't."

Minutes later, however, Crawford was forced to clarify what Musk meant.

"The official label is still going out as part of the @TwitterBlue launch -- we are just focusing on government and commercial entities to begin with," Crawford tweeted. "What you saw him mention was the fact that we're not focusing on giving individuals the 'Official' label right now."

Despite that, accounts including NASA, CNN and the UN had all been stripped of their "official" labels by Wednesday afternoon, fueling the confusion.

The real-time experiment highlights Musk's improvisational management style, which he has applied liberally across the company in his initial weeks of ownership.

In recent days, Twitter and Musk have been met with widespread criticism over the company's plan to change the meaning of the blue check mark away from identifying confirmed individuals, particularly public figures, toward a new meaning signifying that a user has paid for Twitter Blue, the company's subscription service.

Election security experts warned of the likelihood that bad actors could pay for a blue check mark, then change their display names to impersonate government officials or other authoritative sources of information.

After appearing to ready the feature for rollout over the weekend, Twitter later decided to delay the deployment until after the midterms, CNN has previously reported. Also over the weekend, Musk vowed that accounts caught engaging in undisclosed impersonation would be permanently banned without warning, reversing earlier promises that so-called "permabans" would be extremely rare.

RELATED: Twitter's chief information security officer quits amid company turmoil

Twitter said Tuesday evening that to resolve ambiguity about which accounts on its platform have been identity-verified - as opposed to those simply paying $8 a month for a blue check mark on their profiles - the company would introduce the gray check mark as part of an "official" label.

An earlier screenshot posted by Crawford showed how the new label would appear. The screenshot displayed Twitter's own account profile, which included the standard blue check mark beside its display name as well as a gray check mark and the word "Official" underneath its account handle.

"Not all previously verified accounts will get the 'Official' label and the label is not available for purchase," Crawford tweeted on Tuesday. "Accounts that will receive it include government accounts, commercial companies, business partners, major media outlets, publishers and some public figures."

Crawford also confirmed that the forthcoming option to pay for a blue check mark will not include an identity verification requirement.

"We'll continue to experiment with ways to differentiate between account types," Crawford said.

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