Blue checks for me, but not for thee

Some weeks, Elon Musk almost needs his own sidebar. His “loose cannon” approach to things has seen him fill headlines for the last couple of weeks. Late last week, a BBC journalist had his hat handed to him after Musk asked him to verify his claims about Twitter. During an interview with Tucker Carlson, he dropped a number of truth bombs, including the detail that US government agencies had access to private messages on Twitter. Oh, and he rattled sexual revolutionaries by saying that any doctor or parent who helps a child undergo transgender surgeries should be jailed for life.And the latest Musk moment? Twitter has made good on its promise to shake up verification badges, removing legacy “blue checks” from anyone who is not a paid subscriber. Journalists and celebrities were angry, saying that fake accounts will engage in identity theft and proliferate disinformation. The platform will certainly have to balance making a profit with identifying true accounts from phony but the concern over misinformation coming from fake accounts seems a bit overblown. The pandemic showed us that verified experts were often the source of a lot of falsehood. Fraser Myers at Spiked writes, “In truth, some of the most fantastical lies, half-truths and conspiracy theories of the past few years have been peddled by verified users.”  

In the end, securing the coveted blue check has worked like a modern day sumptuary law, lending weight and prestige to the opinions of folks who never earned the trust placed in them. Perhaps what the chattering classes are mostly upset about is that now the hoi polloi can have the same silks and feathers as them! 

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