Business Standard

Rahul to Kohli: Celebs see red after Twitter accounts lose blue tick

Accounts of top Indian brands including HDFC Bank, Maruti Suzuki, Axis Bank, TVS, Swiggy, and PhonePe remained without a verification tag till the time of going to press on Friday


Photo: Bloomberg

Sourabh LeleDebarghya Sanyal New Delhi
Rahul Gandhi: unticked; Amitabh Bachchan: unticked; Virat Kohli: unticked. Gandhi, Bachchan and Kohli were among thousands of twitterati around the world who lost their trust tag on the Elon Musk-owned social media platform, leading up to a weekend of chaos and confusion. Oprah Winfrey, Beyonce Giselle Knowles-Carter, Donald Trump and Pope Francis figured in the who’s who list of those left without the blue tick or the check that has now gone ‘pay’ on Twitter.

In the midst of all the angst about culling of the blue mark that separated a genuine Twitter account from an imposter, there were some lighter moments too through the day. Bachchan took to Awadhi dialect to tell Musk that he had already paid for the blue tick and that he was pleading with folded hands to get the ‘lotus’ back in front of his name. Also, the man to start the paid blue tick regime--Musk—announced that he was paying for some of the celebrities including author Stephen King and then followed up with a ‘namaste’.

It was not just celebrities and public figures, but also government departments which lost the legacy blue verification checkmark through Thursday and Friday.

The iconic verification tick of Twitter comes with features like fewer advertisements, the ability to post long videos and to get priority ranking for quality content. The fee for the blue privilege in India is Rs 650 a month on a web browser and Rs 900 a month on mobile. For organisations, a gold check next to the name costs Rs 82,300 per month and Rs 4,120 for a verification tag to each affiliated member per month. Globally, the monthly range is anything from $8 for an individual’s blue tick to $1000 for a gold or a grey check mark in the case of an organisation.

Accounts of top Indian brands including HDFC Bank, Maruti Suzuki, Axis Bank, TVS, Swiggy, and PhonePe remained without a verification tag till the time of going to press on Friday.

Verification of social media accounts has been a challenge for years. Several users in the past have alleged bias and discriminatory policies in granting the verified mark.

A part of the ambiguity in verification remains even after the rollout of the new plan. The paid verification may complete only after Twitter confirms that the eligibility criteria are met — the account is active for the past 30 days, has confirmed a phone number verification, and “is not deceptive.”

It should not be misleading; there should have been no recent changes to the profile photo, display name, or username and no signs of manipulation and spamming activities.

As per the new policy, accounts that appear similar to others on Twitter are not in violation as long “as their purpose is not to deceive or manipulate others.”

Several celebrities, influencers and other formerly-verified users expressed concern over the possibility of impersonation and misuse of their identity by dummy accounts. 

"By monetising the blue-tick feature and making anyone willing to pay the subscription charges eligible to use the badge, the entire sanctity of the blue-tick as an indicator of a verified account has been upended, and to some extent genuine celebrity and brand Twitter profiles have been somewhat devalued,’’ said Samit Sinha, founder and managing partner of Alchemist Brand Consulting. The removal of the tick is unlikely to affect the established followers of the celebrities due to continuity but could become an impediment in acquiring new followers, Sinha pointed out.

One of the most infamous instances of coordinated Twitter impersonations occurred in 2020. A group of users pretended to be famous personalities and sent out communally sensitive tweets. In most instances, the initial tweets from such accounts attracted a massive number of followers and boosted re-tweet traffic for these handles.

Faisal Haq, chief operating officer of advertising firm The Crayons Network said initially there was some panic at both their client end and the agency side itself when the verification marks disappeared on Friday. “The matter was resolved within half an hour, as most of them got the grey tick to state their authenticity as an organisation, but eventually, they will be going for the golden tick, as it reinstates the authenticity of the brand,” Haq said.

Santosh Desai, managing director and chief executive officer of Futurebrands India, said it will be imperative for brands to spend on the verification checkmarks as quickly as possible. “The organisations can afford to pay for it. From an organisation’s perspective, it is a very minor expense for something as important as a Twitter handle. This will not be a difficult issue to solve but it is definitely a matter of urgency for brands.”

Indeed, companies may need to hurry up especially as advertising on Twitter is now linked to paid verification. According to a Bloomberg report, advertising will only be available to verified accounts.
Twitter turmoil
  • Unpaid verification tags of individuals, businesses, and govt depts removed
  • For verification, individuals must subscribe to Twitter Blue, starting at Rs 900 a month
  • A gold checkmark for organisations priced at Rs 82,300/month with elevated upload limits flexibility
  • “Qualified” govt organisations at national level and top officials may apply and get a grey tick; charges unknown

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First Published: Apr 21 2023 | 7:47 PM IST

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