Twitter’s infamous blue ticks have reappeared on high-profile and celebrity accounts after vanishing for a few days.
Former footballer Gary Neville, tennis player Sir Andy Murray, actor Sir Ian McKellen and comedian Ricky Gervais are among those to have had their ticks reinstated, despite denying they had paid for them.
It comes after Twitter purged tens of thousands of accounts of their “legacy” verification ticks, following through on a policy announced by owner Elon Musk after his $44bn (£38bn) takeover last October.
He said people must sign up to Twitter Blue (which costs up to £11 a month), to keep their blue checkmarks, but many have reappeared anyway.
Sir Ian tweeted: “Despite the implication when you click the blue badge that has mysteriously re-appeared beside my name, I am not paying for the ‘honour’.”
Sir Andy posted: “My blue tick has reappeared. For free… some game.”
Gervais joked that the return of his blue tick must be “a gift for all the bath pics over the years,” while Neville rejected claims he paid a fee, saying “it did just reappear”.
When the cull took place on Thursday, the Pope, author JK Rowling, footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, US rapper Jay-Z, along with the Conservative and Labour parties, were among the accounts impacted.
Musk revealed he was paying for a few famous figures to stay verified, while others appeared to have paid for the subscription themselves.
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Reports suggest the ticks have now been restored to accounts with a million followers or more.
The apparent U-turn follows backlash which saw #BlockTheBlueChecks trending on Twitter, while some celebrities abandoned their profiles altogether, including The Last Of Us star Bella Ramsey.
Meanwhile, comedian Dara O Briain, who has 2.6 million followers but was not verified previously, also received the coveted badge to his surprise.
O Briain tweeted: “So, despite never ever actually having had a blue tick, (I liked the idea that I might have been a parody account all this time) I wake up this morning to find I have been given one.
“That is peculiar. No, I haven’t paid, nor requested it. Can I get into nightclubs now?”
Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker, with 1.2 million followers, appeared indignant to his verification by apparently finding a way to remove the tick.
In a parody tweet mimicking a famous UK cleaning advert, he said: “Hi, I’m Barry Scott. Blue tick reappeared?
“Change your name, then change it back. BANG! And the mark is gone.”
The latest U-turn comes after an embarrassing episode when Musk first introduced paid-for blue checkmarks last year, which left Twitter awash with accounts posing as celebrities brands, and politicians.