04.04.2023 | by Lili
The little blue tick beside a Twitter account name used to mean that the profile was verified as authentic by Twitter. As of November 2022, it may simply mean that the account subscribes to Twitter Blue. But what is Twitter Blue, and why was this change introduced?
As you probably know, Tesla founder and billionaire Elon Musk has acquired Twitter in October 2022. Musk’s takeover brought on many personal and policy changes at the popular social media platform, including a change of management and massive layoffs across the entire company.
While quite a few new operating policies at Twitter caused an uproar in society (e.g. cancelling the ban on spreading COVID-19 misinformation), it’s the new Twitter Blue policy that has online brand protection experts at globaleyez the most worried.
According to the company’s website, “Twitter Blue is an opt-in, paid subscription that adds a blue checkmark to your account and offers early access to select features.”
Screenshot of twitter.com/elonmusk, displaying Elon Musk’s Twitter account with a blue tick
Under the previous ownership, the same symbol used to indicate “active, notable, and authentic accounts of public interest that Twitter had independently verified based on certain requirements.”
Since Twitter seems to be unwilling to change the symbol, accounts with a blue tick now may mean either of those things: an authentic, verified account or a subscriber to Twitter Blue. Unfortunately, this ambiguity has the potential to create massive confusion among Twitter users and an unmissable opportunity for fraudsters to abuse a trusted symbol.
+++ Update Fall 2023 +++
Twitter, now renamed X, has decided to phase out ticks given out under the old system. This means that (after some glitches) legacy blue ticks were deleted and now the symbol only means one thing: a subscriber to X Premium (formerly known as Twitter Blue).
Another big change at the platform is the intention to delete inactive accounts and sell their handles to interested users. Although nothing is set in stone yet, reports suggest that X is considering setting up a handle marketplace where users could buy and sell X handles - potentially for as much as $50,000.
Indeed, the world didn’t have to wait long for mayhem to break loose on Twitter. Shortly after being introduced, new Twitter Blue subscribers created accounts and tweeted in the names of well-known personalities like Pope Francis and George W Bush, companies like Nintendo, Lockheed Martin and even Musk’s own Tesla and SpaceX.
In Germany, a parody account of a discontinued product, Punica juice appeared on Twitterand caused hilarity when it encouraged its followers to steal from supermarkets and to found a new microstate called Punica-Oasis in the German province of Brandenburg.
Screenshot of the parody Punica account. Translation of the account description: @punicaDE brings you the fruity refreshment! Freshen up now and follow our fruities. Here tweets the unofficial Punica team. (translated by globaleyez)
Screenshot of a tweet by the parody Punica account. Translation: We think it’s OK to steal Punica juice from the supermarket. (translated by globaleyez) After a user pointed out that stealing is against German criminal law, the parody Punica account replied: We know of course, but we do not care. (translated by globaleyez)
It’s easy to see how damaging these actions can be to the people and brands whose names were abused like this. For example, pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly & Co had to issue an apology after a fake tweet published in their name announced that insulin was free for everyone.
Such a debacle has the potential to seriously damage a brand’s reputation and, as in the case of Eli Lilly, have a huge negative impact on its share price that may set it back for years - through no fault of their own. While Eli Lilly’s reputation will most likely survive this, other brands may not be that lucky.
After these events, it’s no wonder that Twitter was forced to rethink its blue tick policy. What resulted is a somewhat more varied, yet still very confusing system of ticks issued in various colours.
Twitter Blue remains a paid subscription service (plus the old blue ticks remaining from the previous era.) However, Twitter notes that besides paying the monthly $8 fee, subscribers have to meet some criteria to be awarded the tick.
You can subscribe to Twitter Blue if
- Your account is older than 90 days,
- You verified your phone number.
If you change your display name, handle (@username) or profile picture, the blue tick disappears until Twitter validates that your account still deserves the tick.
For example, if a random user suddenly changes their name to Elon Musk and starts tweeting as if they owned Twitter, we can expect the blue tick to disappear from their account.
While the promise of validation is somewhat reassuring, the company’s website doesn’t elaborate on what the actual process entails and how effective it is. Unfortunately, payment-based verification doesn’t tend to ensure the removal of fraudulent accounts. After all, anybody with a credit card can pay for ads, product listings and blue ticks - fraudsters and honest people alike.
Besides displaying the blue tick, Twitter Blue promises its users some other perks, including themes, editing and retracting tweets, prioritised replies, longer tweets and two-factor authentication.
In order to differentiate between users, Twitter has introduced gold and grey tick marks for businesses and government organisations. The gold ticks replace the label “official” besides business names, while the grey ticks appear besides government and multilateral organisations.
Screenshot of twitter.com/disney, displaying Disney’s official account with a gold tick
Screenshot of twitter.com/eu-commission, displaying the European Commission’s official account with a grey tick
It seems that for now at least, notable personalities still have to rely on the blue tick to create trust in their followers and lend authenticity to their words.
Screenshot of twitter.com/barackobama, displaying Barack Obama’s account with a blue tick
It seems that with a gold tick, you can secure your brand’s account and ensure it’s taken seriously. At least once users become familiar with the new system.
But while most are still mystified by the sudden abundance of coloured ticks on Twitter accounts, fraudsters may use the opportunity to abuse your brand’s carefully built reputation and invaluable IP rights. And you’ve seen from the examples above how incredibly damaging that can turn out to be for your brand’s reputation.
Luckily, there’s something you can do about it.
Our social media monitoring service is designed for situations like this, e.g. when somebody pretends they’re authorised to sell your products and/or represent your brand on social media platforms.
globaleyez’s powerful software tools crawl social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, detecting potentially IP infringing content like posts, comment threads, product listings and images. Versatile filter options help us categorise results and single out unauthorised accounts infringing on your IP rights.
Since sellers (both authorised and infringing) usually heavily rely on pictures to sell their products online, a round of our image monitoring service would be essential to pick up even more fraudulent content and uncover the hidden connection between various accounts across social media, online marketplaces, single webshops and any other corner of the internet.
Finally, if you want us to, we can enforce your brand’s rights and demand the removal of infringing content from Twitter and any other spot online. We’ve conducted quite a few successful takedown missions on Twitter in the past, and have every hope that this great cooperation will continue under the new ownership as well.
Twitter is going through a time of change and some of the new rules can be quite confusing for brands and consumers.
Don’t let fraudsters use this situation to their advantage; nip all attempted IP infringements in the bud with a comprehensive online brand protection programme.