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Elon Musk restores verified badge to some journalist accounts

That complimentary subscription comes with a warning that the perk could be revoked at any time, for any reason.

That complimentary subscription comes with a warning that the perk could be revoked at any time, for any reason.

Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla, appears at a U.S. Air Force event in Colorado Springs, Colorado on April 7, 2022.
Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla, appears at a U.S. Air Force event in Colorado Springs, Colorado on April 7, 2022. (Photo by Trevor Cokley, U.S. Air Force, Graphic by The Desk)

Technology mogul Elon Musk has started re-verifying the accounts of some prominent journalists on his social media platform X (formerly Twitter), reversing a plan to charge reporters and other high-profile users for the privilege of a blue verification badge.

On Wednesday, Musk confirmed plans to offer a free subscription to X Premium (formerly Twitter Blue) if a user managed to accrue more than 2,500 “verified subscriber followers,” and free access to a higher level of Premium — called Premium Plus — if the user had at least 5,000 followers.

It wasn’t clear what Musk meant by “verified subscriber followers.” The platform currently offers a feature that allows people to charge followers for access to posts that are hidden behind a subscription paywall, though not all Premium users take advantage of this feature. (Other users, including this reporter, have waited over a year for X to approve applications for subscriptions, with little feedback from the company on why the application process has taken so long.)

During its time as Twitter, the platform required high-profile users — including accredited journalists — to apply for a verification badge. The badge served as a way for users to trust that an account purporting to belong to a prolific celebrity or user was vetted by the platform, and also stood as a mark of honor for the lucky few thousand who were able to successfully apply for one, as Twitter’s vetting process was notoriously opaque.

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Musk removed those barriers by putting verification behind a paywall, charging users at least $8 per month or $80 per year for the coveted blue badge with white checkmark as part of a subscription to Premium. Journalists who did not agree to pay for Premium instantly lost their verification badge when the product rolled out in late 2022.

Many journalists and other high-profile Twitter users defected to other platforms, including Mastodon, Bluesky, Post News and Meta-owned Threads. They were part of a mass exodus away from Twitter, and later X, in the months following Musk’s takeover, which also included the loss of some prominent advertisers like Disney.

Now, Musk appears to be reversing his decision to charge those critical users for basic functions that verify a person’s real-world identity, though not without some strings: A note sent to some journalists who had their verification badges restored on Wednesday said X reserves the right “to cancel the complimentary subscription in its sole discretion.”

Translation: If Musk is irritated by someone in the journalism community, or simply wakes up on the wrong side of the bed tomorrow, journalists on X could have their free Premium privileges revoked with little warning.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 10 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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