The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Twitter users #BlockTheBlue as ‘verified’ accounts take on new meaning

Twitter on Friday suspended the @Blocktheblue account. (Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images)
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Frustrated users on Twitter are taking up arms against accounts with blue check marks and blocking them en masse in an effort they are calling #BlockTheBlue.

Previously, the blue check mark denoted a “legacy account” that was from a prominent organization or person, whose identity had been verified. But that changed Thursday, when the social media company stripped many public figures, media outlets, celebrities, businesses and others of the symbol, assigning it only to paid subscribers of Twitter Blue.

Alejandra Caraballo, an instructor at Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic, said the new verification policy makes Twitter unusable. “Any troll can get verified and ensure the worst content is prioritized. It’s a spam and abuse enhancement tool,” she wrote, noting that she had already blocked nearly 200,000 Twitter Blue accounts.

Max Collins, who runs the popular Twitter account for rock band Eve 6 and is blocking blue checks, said in an email that he now associates the symbol with “people who are really into crypto and have a borderline fanatic devotion” to Twitter owner Elon Musk and “hard line right wing ideologues.” Alastair McAlphine, an infectious diseases pediatrician, tweeted, “Block blue checks on sight for a happier, healthier [timeline]!”

Shortly after the #BlockTheBlue hashtag took off, Twitter on Friday suspended the @BlockTheBlue account. Musk supporters have meanwhile called on Twitter users to “pay the eight,” referring to the $8 monthly fee to get a check mark through the Twitter Blue subscription. Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.

Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion last fall. Under his leadership, it has suspended several journalists who covered him, dismantled policies aimed at protecting vulnerable groups and temporarily changed the logo of the site to the dogecoin symbol. In the months since his purchase, hate speech has been amplified, The Washington Post reported. Several prominent figures and organizations have also left the platform, including NPR, which Musk labeled “state-affiliated media” earlier this month.

Musk has sought to democratize the policy around the blue check mark, which had become something of a status marker. Some well-known figures were gifted free Twitter Blue subscriptions by Musk, including author Stephen King, who did not appear to want one.

On Friday, Twitter users posted videos of themselves blocking dozens of accounts with paid blue check marks at once and offered strategies for targeting such accounts efficiently. Memes circulated casting those behind #BlockTheBlue as sci-fi gladiators attacking blue badges and hunters out for “bluecheck season.” Environmentalist Bill McKibben supported the #BlockTheBlue effort, writing on Twitter, “I’ve never blocked anyone, but this approach seems sound.”