Twitter removed the blue verification badge from The New York Times’ main account on Sunday. As reported by The Washington Post, the move was initiated by Elon Musk after he learned that the news organization would not pay for the Twitter Blue service.
The removal of the badge is part of Twitter’s plan to roll back its traditional verification program, which used blue ticks on the accounts of verified companies, journalists, and public figures. Twitter is now implementing a paid system where anyone who signs up for a subscription can get a badge. A Twitter Blue subscription costs users $8 per month through the website and $11 per month through the mobile app, while businesses that want to be verified must pay $1,000 per month.
The New York Times account was one of the few that Twitter removed its verification by Sunday morning. The move appears to have been made on the personal order of Musk, who late Saturday night reacted to a meme about the Times’ decision not to pay for verification on Twitter with, “Oh ok, we’ll take it off then.”
The New York Times, The Washington Post and other news organizations have said they will not pay for verification for their news organizations or reporters, although the Times said there may be rare exceptions when the badge is “essential for reporting purposes.”
This change will make it more difficult for users to know whether an account was previously verified through proof of public importance or only received the badge after paying for a Twitter Blue subscription. At the same time, most accounts still have their badge, although Musk previously announced that the old verification system will disappear on April 1. The Washington Post reported that removing the verification badges would require a lot of manual work due to the company’s error-prone software, which one former employee described as “all held together with duct tape.”
Musk overnight also tweeted several attacks on the Times, saying “their propaganda isn’t even interesting.”
According to company policy introduced by Musk, Twitter no longer responds to questions from journalists on any topic, automatically sending poop emoji in response.
While Musk said on Friday that he wants to make Twitter “the most trusted place on the internet,” removing verification marks from well-known accounts is likely to make it harder for Twitter users to distinguish between real and fake accounts. Pranksters and trolls on the platform have already started changing their names and photos to impersonate celebrities, companies, and politicians.