Twitter on Thursday began removing legacy blue checkmarks from user profiles, with famous people including pop icon Beyonce, Microsoft Corp co-founder Bill Gates and Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo losing their verified statuses.
Pope Francis, who lost the blue tick earlier on Thursday, was later given the gray verification checkmark by Twitter.
Some personalities such as basketball star LeBron James and author Stephen King still had their checkmarks.
“The Shining” author King, who has previously called Musk a terrible fit for Twitter, tweeted: “My Twitter account says I’ve subscribed to Twitter Blue. I haven’t. My Twitter account says I’ve given a phone number. I haven’t.”
Musk tweeted back to him: “You’re welcome namaste,” with a hands folded emoji.
The Verge reported that James, who has previously said he would not pay for verification, had not paid to keep the checkmark.
Musk tweeted separately: “I’m paying for a few personally.” and later tweeted “Just Shatner, LeBron and King,” referring to Star Trek actor William Shatner, who had last month complained about being forced to pay to keep his blue checkmark.
Among those losing their badges were former US President Donald Trump and reality TV star Kim Kardashian.
Under Musk’s ownership, Twitter has changed how it hands out the coveted blue checkmarks that were earlier given to noted individuals, journalists, executives, politicians and establishments after verifying their identities. They served as a mark of authenticity.
Musk said in November that Twitter will begin charging $8 per month for the badge in an effort to launch more revenue streams beyond advertising.
The company later offered checkmarks in other colors – gold for businesses and a gray for government and multilateral organizations and officials.
Twitter on Friday also dropped the “government-funded” label from the accounts of U.S.-based National Public Radio (NPR), British Broadcasting Corp and public broadcaster Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).
It dropped the “China state-affiliated media” tag on the accounts of Xinhua News as well as of journalists associated with government-backed publications.
NPR stopped posting content on its 52 official Twitter feeds after the social networking company labeled it “state-affiliated media” and later “government-funded media”.
CBC also paused its activities on Twitter and sparred with Musk over the platform’s definition of “government funded”.
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