It’s been a whirlwind two weeks since Elon Musk was forced to follow through with his misguided plan to buy Twitter, and I suspect that not even his most vitriolic detractors expected things to fall apart quite this fast.
Advertisers have run a mile, Musk went on a mass firing (and then rehiring) spree and a flurry of executives have resigned. It’s like watching a Yahoo takeover on fast-forward.
All the while his plan to let anybody get the blue tick that verifies notable users for just $8 a month has led to dubiously verified George Bush and Tony Blair accounts expressing a love of war crimes, and a blue-ticked Nintendo imitator posting a picture of Mario delivering a middle-finger salute.
The flurry of fake Elon Musk accounts that appeared led to him reversing his aversion to permabans too, showing that direct action works.
Unsurprisingly, the blue tick free-for-all has now been paused, but not before a lot of people paid for the faintly ridiculous status symbol. So just how can you tell official accounts from those with more money than sense?
Currently, you can tell the difference between the two by clicking on the blue tick. If it’s someone notable, it will say they’re verified for being “notable in government, news, entertainment, or another designated category.” Otherwise it’ll say they’ve paid for the privilege, which is a long-winded way of typing “gullible” but there we are.
But there’s an easier way of telling the difference. Kiwi designer Walter Lim has built a Chrome plug-in called “Eight Dollars” which divides verified logos into “paid for verification” or “actually verified”, saving you the trouble of manually checking.
While initially only for Chrome, the plug-in’s popularity has meant that Lim has now ensured it works in Firefox and Edge, too, and a Safari version is on the way.
It’s only available on GitHub for the moment, but hopefully it’ll become easier to install in the days ahead. Given the rate at which Musk is making changes to Twitter, it may stop working today, tomorrow or when the site goes bankrupt — something the world’s richest man reassuringly doesn’t rule out — but it’s fully working for now. So if you see Mario giving you the middle digit in future, you’ll know if it’s really him.