The New York Times’ main Twitter account lost its verified badge. The US publication appeared to be one of the first major accounts to lose its golden tick after the social media platform announced it would start removing not-paid-for verified badges from Apr. 1.
According to the Washington Post, the decision to remove the verified badge from the @nytimes account came directly from Twitter CEO Elon Musk, after he learnt the publication had no intention to pay to retain the golden tick that had recently been assigned to accounts belonging to organizations. A New York Times spokesperson stood by the decision in a statement to Reuters following the removal of the verified badge on Sunday (Apr. 2). Other accounts associated with the New York Times, such as New York Times World and New York Times Arts, retain their badge at the time of writing.
Musk appeared to comment on the account’s loss of the verification badge in the morning of Apr. 2, tweeting: “The real tragedy of @NYTimes is that their propaganda isn’t even interesting.” The Twitter CEO then commented on the account’s social media presence: “Also, their feed is the Twitter equivalent of diarrhea. It’s unreadable. They would have far more real followers if they only posted their top articles. Same applies to all publications.”
Musk’s comments followed a series of scoops in the New York Times detailing his company’s struggles. Last month, the publication reported that Musk told employees the company was now worth $20 billion, less than half the $44 billion he paid in October. On Friday (Mar. 31), the New York Times published an article detailing how the US Federal Trade Commission, which has been investigating the company’s privacy and data practice, rebuffed a request to meet with Musk. The article also mentioned that Twitter would exempt its top 10,000 accounts from paying the fee—by followers’ count, @nytimes is Twitter’s 24th most popular account, according to tracking service Social Blade.
By the digits
55 million: Followers count for @nytimes at the time of publication
$8: Minimum cost for a Twitter Blue subscription
$1,000: Cost of a Twitter Blue subscription for organizations’ accounts
Why does Twitter’s verified badge matter?
The legacy blue tick was meant to serve as a mark of authenticity when it was first introduced in 2009 after a legal squabble with Tony La Russa, the former manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, who sued Twitter because he was being impersonated on the platform.
Four years later, the microblogging platform extended the definition beyond authenticity. The feature was also meant to help users “discover high-quality sources of information and trust that a legitimate source is authoring the account’s tweets.” The blue tick was awarded to lesser-known politicians, activists, and journalists, in a bid to curb the spread of misinformation. Some began to see the blue ticks as a mark of popularity, and the process by which it was awarded was at times criticized for not being timely or transparent.
When Musk bought Twitter in October, reforming the verification process was high on his priority list, as he was among those who saw the blue tick as a status symbol. He soon proposed a payment system to award the verified badges, promising it would fulfil the same purpose of accreditation. The first launch of Twitter Blue stirred up a storm, with several users successfully paid for the checkmark while impersonating people and companies such as Eli Lilly. According to high-profile Twitter users such as Monica Lewinsky, the problem of impersonators obtaining verified badges through the Twitter Blue service persists.
Quotable: What about New York Times’ reporters’ blue badges?
“We also will not reimburse reporters for Twitter Blue for personal accounts, except in rare instances where this status would be essential for reporting purposes.” —A New York Times spokesperson in a statement to Reuters, dated April 2, 2023.
A non-exhaustive list of publications who won’t pay for Twitter’s blue tick
In a round-up collated by CNN’s Oliver Darcy, many of the US’s biggest news outlets have declined paying for Twitter Blue as an organization, and said they won’t reimburse staffers who want to retain their badges either.
- The Los Angeles Times managing editor Sara Yasin, in a memo to employees, said the publication would not subscribe to Twitter Blue nor compensate employees who do, saying the badge “no longer establishes authority or credibility.” In its statement, it also said Twitter, as a news gathering tool, “is not as reliable as it once was.”
- The Washington Post rejected blue ticks for the company and its staffers, saying “verified check marks no longer represent authority and expertise.”
- Politico said, in the absence of the blue tick representing credibility, paying for it would just entail “paying for benefits such as longer tweets and fewer ads.” The company won’t fund that for employees.
- Insider won’t pay for the organization’s golden badge or journalists’ blue ticks.
Vox Media—the publisher behind The Verge, New York Magazine, Thrillist, and Vox—and CNN will pay to retain the badges for the companies, but not for individual journalists on their payroll. In the UK, BBC is taking the same stance, as Insider reported.
One more thing: Everywhere the New York Times is still verified
The New York Times is still verified on Instagram, Facebook, and Telegram. Meta has teased the possibility of a $11.99 per month subscription for its platforms Instagram and Facebook but, unlike Twitter, the verification badges granted to notable users like politicians, executives, members of the press, and organizations, will remain in place regardless.
🚫 Elon Musk is now banning journalists and competitors on Twitter
🐦 Elon Musk doesn’t understand the purpose of Twitter’s blue checkmark
💸 Elon Musk still needs 10 million more Twitter Blue subscribers to pay the interest on his loans