Twitter has suspended its newly relaunched blue tick verification system after the social media platform was flooded by a wave of imposter accounts.
The premium “Twitter Blue” service is available to anyone for £6.99 a month in the UK ($8 a month in the US) – having previously been used to authenticate the accounts of public figures, including celebrities and journalists, which had been vetted and confirmed as genuine.
But the revamped model has given credence to a host of fake accounts – with one parody purporting to be Jesus Christ getting verification.
The person behind the satirical account, who prefers to remain anonymous, started it 14 years ago in 2006.
“Even though I’ve had it that long, I wasn’t ever sure I’d be able to get it verified,” he told Business Insider.
“I’ve applied for verification before and been rejected, but when Elon Musk changed the verification rules and you could subscribe to Twitter Blue and buy a verified check, I knew it was finally my time. It was immediate. I bought the Twitter Blue subscription, and when I finished confirming Apple Pay and reopened Twitter, I was verified.”
Another fake account claimed insulin was free, forcing US pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly & Co to offer an apology.
Just a fortnight after paying $44bn to take control of Twitter in October, new owner Elon Musk has seen his companies, Tesla and SpaceX, accounts impersonated.
And the world’s richest man also appears to have two verified accounts, with one operating under the handle @JoshMalina proclaiming on Wednesday: “Good night. Twitter cleanse starts now”.
The suspension happened hours after the billionaire entrepreneur warned Twitter could face bankruptcy, having fired half the workforce.
His new vision has prompted high profile users including Stephen Fry to deactivate their accounts – as advertisers also raise fears about whether the platform can survive.
Musk posted on Thursday: “Too many corrupt legacy Blue ‘verification’ checkmarks exist, so no choice but to remove legacy Blue in coming months”.
However, he also claimed Twitter hit an “all-time high of active users” on Friday, adding: “Usage of Twitter continues to rise.
“One thing is for sure: it isn’t boring!”
There are now two categories of “blue checks” – but they look identical.
One includes accounts verified before Musk took over, which state: “This account if verified because it’s notable in government, news, entertainment or another designated category”.
The other confirms the account subscribes to Twitter Blue.
Twitter Blue was not available on the platform’s online version, which said signup was only possible on the iPhone version. However, the iPhone version did not offer Twitter Blue as an option.
The platform also appears undecided about adding “official” labels to some prominent accounts, rolling them out before axing them hours earlier.
Musk and Twitter’s own accounts, together with global brands including Amazon, Nike and Coca-Cola, do not have “official” status.