Indian celebrities and top politicians ranging from Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi lost verified blue ticks on their Twitter accounts after Elon Musk’s microblogging site started removing check mark icons from accounts that did not pay a subscription fee.
Twitter has begun removing the check mark, which had for years meant that Twitter had verified the identity of the user behind an account, from the profiles of thousands of celebrities, politicians and journalists on Thursday.
This led some of the biggest names in Bollywood — from Bachchan to Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan, several chief ministers including Yogi Adityanath, and top cricketers such as Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli losing the blue tick mark on their Twitter handles.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and his sister Priyanka Gandhi as well as cricketers Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma too lost their verified blue ticks from their Twitter accounts.
Theirs and that of several other prominent personalities, which had the blue tick, did not show the verified icon on Friday.
Bachchan tweeted that he has paid the money and sought the blue tick back.
The blue tick was considered something of a status symbol but under Musk, who bought Twitter for USD 44 billion in October, the social media service is now charging individuals a monthly fee of Rs 650 on the web and Rs 900 on mobile devices to maintain their verification status.
The microblogging platform also offers a discounted annual plan of Rs 6,800 per year.
Musk had previously stated that those who did not pay will lose their check marks.
Among those whose accounts no longer had blue tick was the Twitter handle of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who has 27 million followers on the microblogging website. Rahul Gandhi with 23.3 million followers too lost his blue tick.
Ironically, a parody account that went by the profile name of ‘Rofl Gandhi 2.0’ and sporting Rahul Gandhi’s picture continued to host the blue tick.
The account ‘@RoflGandhi_’ tweeted pics of its account, with 801,000 followers, with a blue tick and Rahul Gandhi’s without the tick. “Ye kaisi duniya bana raha hai bhai tu @elonmusk (what kind of world are you creating Elon Musk),” it tweeted.
Several other chief ministers, including Mamata Banerjee of West Bengal, Yogi Adityanath of Uttar Pradesh, Eknath Shinde of Maharashtra, M K Stalin of Tamil Nadu, and Nitish Kumar of Bihar, too lost their verified icons.
Legendary cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, who has 38.6 million followers on Twitter, also lost the blue tick.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ministers as well as Twitter handles of political parties including BJP and Congress continued to display verified marks.
Congress president Malikarjun Kharge as well as BJP chief Jagat Prakash Nadda sported a grey checkmark, which indicates that an account represents a government/ multilateral organisation or a government/multilateral official.
Other celebrities whose blue ticks were removed included Ajay Devgn, Aia Bhatt, Akshay Kumar, Kajol, Madhuri Dixit, Anushka Sharma and Anil Kapoor, among others.
Some celebrities said they would abandon Twitter altogether, while others shrugged off the change but refused to pay.
Twitter introduced the blue check mark system in 2009 to help users identify that celebrities, politicians, companies and brands, news organisations and other accounts “of public interest” were genuine and not impostors or parody accounts. The company didn’t previously charge for verification.
Musk had initially proposed charging USD 20 monthly for verification, but later lowered it to USD 8 after blowback. He had previously stated that verified accounts would lose their badges in early April, but pruning has begun only now.
“Tomorrow, 4/20, we are removing legacy verified checkmarks,” the company said in a statement on Twitter. “To remain verified on Twitter, individuals can sign up for Twitter Blue.” It also gave link for organisations to sign up for verified organisations.
Ever since acquiring Twitter, Musk has been grappling to revive the dwindling revenues of the platform. His push for subscription fee is seen as a step in this direction.
He had been critical of the previous management at Twitter that doled out free verification to journalists and other elites. He had pledged to eliminate what he called a “lords & peasants system” and to offer the blue badge to anyone willing to pay a fee.
Former US President Donald Trump, Microsoft Co-Founder Bill Gates and reality TV star Kim Kardashian were among those who lost their badges.
With several celebrities refusing to pay, Musk is “personally paying” for the Twitter Blue subscription of basketball star LeBron James, author Stephen King and Star Trek star William Shatner.
“I’m paying for a few personally,” he tweeted. “Just Shatner, LeBron and King.” Separately, Twitter ditched its “state-affiliated” and “government-funded” labels for media outlets. While China’s Xinhua and the Global Times, and Russia’s RT were as of Friday no longer identified as state-affiliated media, publicly funded Western outlets including National Public Radio (NPR) in the United States, the BBC in the UK, and Canada’s CBC no longer had a “government-funded” label.