Twitter’s Rollout of the Pay-for-Verification Status Is Going As Well as We Expected (Really Badly)

In a not shocking turn-of-events, the feature was almost instantly abused by people impersonating celebrities, athletes, and politicians.

Credit: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images

“I am officially requesting a trade.” - A verified Lebron James Twitter account

“I miss killing Iraqis.” - A verified George W. Bush Twitter account

Twitter launched its $8 pay-for-verification feature yesterday. In a not shocking turn-of-events, it was almost instantly abused by people impersonating celebrities, athletes, and politicians.

In one example, a verified account pretending to be former President George W. Bush, with the handle @GeorgeWBushs, tweeted, "I miss killing Iraqis," along with a sad face emoji. It was retweeted with the message, “Same tbh.” by a fake-but-verified account of Tony Blair, the former UK prime minister who was in office during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Neither Bush nor Blair have personal Twitter accounts. The parody accounts are now gone.

Other prominent examples of users abusing the system are an OJ Simpson parody account, which tweeted, “Ya I’m ngl I did that sh*t,” presumably in reference to allegations Simpson murdered his ex-wife and her friend Ron Goldman; a Nintendo parody account, which tweeted an image of Mario holding up a middle finger; and a parody Lebron James account, which tweeted, “I am officially requested a trade. Thank you #LakersNation for all the support through the years [100 emoji] Onto bigger and better things! [crown emoji].”

It seems Twitter is also concerned about the rampant spread of verified parody accounts right out of the gate, because the platform has apparently limited the rollout of the feature. On the “About Twitter Blue” page, it reads "Twitter accounts created on or after November 9, 2022 will be unable to subscribe to Twitter Blue at this time.” It is unclear when the limitation was put in place, but according to NBC News, it was added sometime before 1 pm yesterday.

Elon Musk, who officially acquired Twitter 2 weeks ago, has been scrutinized for the quick release of the feature, with many expressing concerns it could help the spread of misinformation (concerns that now seem almost immediately vindicated!). Previous to the rollout, several verified accounts, most notably Kathy Griffin, impersonated Musk to illustrate the ease with which bad actors could abuse the system. Musk responded that any such impersonators would be “permanently banned” — unless they clearly marked that they were parody accounts.