San Francisco, April 21: Twitter began the mass removal of its blue ticks on Thursday, as the symbol previously used to signify a verified account vanished from users including the Pope, Donald Trump, and Justin Bieber.
Owner Elon Musk, who has seen his $44 billion investment in the site shrivel, earlier pledged to get rid of what he described as a “lords & peasants system.”
He offered instead to sell the blue badge to anyone who would pay $8 a month, in a move he said last year would “democratize journalism & empower the voice of the people.”
Earlier dates set for the rollback of the ticks — predominately used by celebrities, journalists, and politicians — have slipped by without noticeable action.
But on Thursday high-profile accounts, as well as those of many reporters at AFP and other news organizations appeared to have had the checkmarks removed.
Politicians and official bodies also appeared to have been hit, with US Senator Brian Schatz objecting to the possible effect on public confidence in the event of disasters.
“There really ought to be a way for emergency managers to verify that they are real on this website or imposters will cause suffering and death,” he tweeted.
“I am not complaining about my own check mark, I just think during natural disasters it’s essential to know that FEMA is actually FEMA,” he wrote, referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency that steps in after hurricanes and deadly storms.
Some celebrities still had the blue tick, despite not signing up for it.
Musk said in response to a news article about those check marks that he was “paying for a few personally.”
In response to another tweet, he said it was only for Star Trek’s William Shatner, basketball superstar LeBron James, and author Stephen King.