Recently, it has become popular to purchase “titles” of Scottish nobility.
Services exist that claim to sell customers square-foot ‘souvenir plots’ of Scottish land. Citing misunderstood and often incorrect definitions of historic noble titles, these morally questionable companies tell customers that paying for that tiny plot of land — which they do not even legally own — comes with the right to refer to oneself as a “lord” or “lady.”
The appeal is obvious — you, a regular schmuck, can instantly obtain social legitimacy and historical justification via a printed-out certificate that costs a little over a hundred bucks.
Elon Musk — having been forced to make good on his questionable promise to buy Twitter — intends to overhaul the blue checkmark system of verification. The tech giant baby daddy will be charging all users $8 a month for the badge which until now was strictly a non-purchasable gift presented at the whim of the mysterious Twitter royal court.
This proposal has resulted in a mental breakdown at all levels of Twitter society, including comedians, journalists, and elected members of the United States Congress.
The reason should be immediately obvious.
Blue checkmarks have historically served as an order of merit and mark of authority for the most terminally online users of the site.
As Twitter put it in years past: “The blue Verified badge on Twitter lets people know that an account of public interest is authentic. To receive the blue badge, your account must be authentic, notable, and active.”
Much like the noble classes and royal courts of the old world, verified Twitter accounts began as a closely-guarded and exclusive in-group.
As time went on, the explicit and implicit criteria for earning verification dropped precipitously while demand grew with the site’s political relevance and popularity. The otherwise innocuous checkmark badges offered political relevance for checked users through both psychological influence and algorithmic preference.
Many celebrities and public figures only interact with other verified users. Some news outlets only pull online quotes and reactions from blue-checked accounts. The clump of blue and white pixels makes you more ‘real’ from a malicious, simulated perspective.
A very real order of precedence was created via the blue check system. With the badges, Twitter gave birth to an undemocratic, centralized, and self-serving in-group that had cascading ramifications through the internet as other sites adopted similar features.
Musk says this “lords and peasants system” of Old Twitter is soon to be over, and a more fair, democratic Twitter is set to rise from its ashes.
The crux of Musk’s proposal — which has not been formally rolled out, and so could end up completely abandoned — is that from now on blue checks will be allotted to anyone willing to pay for the badge. The blue checks of the pre-Elon era — socially insulated and out of touch with the common man — will be forced to fork out the monthly fee like everyone else.
Musk has failed to explain how exactly the site would handle the required amount of individual identity audits necessary to “verify” the Twitter-addicted hoards demanding new checks.
The New York Times — an outlet not worth trusting to report on Musk fairly — has claimed that there will be no actual verification.
If this is true (and when discussing media coverage of Musk, nothing is assumed to be true) it would not be a “democratization” of the blue check badge. It would be the end of such a system.
If what Musk is proposing is a pay-to-play blue badge system which confers algorithmic preference and heightened visibility to $8-a-month subscribers, that is his decision, and not necessarily a bad one from a money-making perspective.
This new blue check system appears to inhabit the same esoteric consumer niche as those Scottish “titles.”
If anyone can be a ‘public figure,’ no one is a ‘public figure.’ This new check would serve as little more than a receipt of purchase for a Twitter premium service that artificially inflates your algorithmic importance.
You may be an anonymous account with 13 followers, but for a rolling subscription, you can feel like a world leader. You may have developed a mental disorder from your compulsive social media use — none of which is read by anyone — but for $8 you can feel like a legacy journalist.
You feel very important with a fun blue check certifying to the unwashed masses that you are someone who… paid for Twitter.
In the same tweetstorm that announced the new subscription plan for blue checkmarks, Musk snuck in a comment with vague but interesting implications.
“There will be a secondary tag below the name for someone who is a public figure, which is already the case for politicians,” Musk said of his plans for the future.
A secondary tag used by public figures in order to display their importance?
That can’t be bought and is gifted at the discretion of Twitter HQ to those they deem to be some sort of authority?
That appears next to one’s name on the site?
What a novel idea.
Can Elon make it look nice? People will want to show theirs off.