Twitter’s blue ticks mysteriously return – even for dead celebrities


Deceased celebrities’ accounts that sported the blue ticks included US singer Michael Jackson and comic book artist Stan Lee. Photos: Screengrabs from Michael Jackson/Twitter, Stan Lee/Twitter

Confusion surrounding Twitter deepened over the weekend after a number of high-profile accounts saw their prized blue check-marks reinstated – even though some of their owners have been dead for years.

Celebrities and public figures took to the platform to deny having paid US$8 a month for the coloured tick, despite labels stating the “account is verified because they are subscribed to Twitter Blue and verified their phone number”.

Unpaid, legacy blue ticks – which once conferred authenticity on accounts verified by the company – were removed last week as part of billionaire owner Elon Musk’s push to boost revenue.

“For the curious, I’m not subscribed to Twitter Blue. I haven’t given anyone my phone number,” British fantasy author Neil Gaiman wrote.

British actor Ian McKellen said he is not “paying for the ‘honour’.” Even the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, which also received the blue mark, sought to clarify that it has “never subscribed and paid” for the service.

Twitter has drawn fire for shifting policies as well as a series of outages since Mr Musk took over the platform for US$44 billion and fired many of its staff.

Users were quick to speculate on whether the label was automatically provided to accounts that cleared a million subscribers. But there appeared to be key exceptions, with the profiles of stars like Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds still missing a blue tick he once held, despite having more than 21 million followers.

More bewilderment was in store after people noticed that dead personalities’ accounts also sported the label, such as those of American celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain and National Basketball Association player Kobe Bryant. Bourdain died in 2018 and Bryant in 2020.

Others were angered by the addition of blue ticks for profiles of people such as prominent Saudi journalist and columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in 2018.

The account of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, who was assassinated in 2022, also received the verified label.

None of the profiles appeared to be active.

Other deceased celebrities’ accounts that sported the blue ticks included American singer Michael Jackson, comic book artist Stan Lee and actor Chadwick Boseman, although those accounts have been actively managed by others on their behalf.

While no reason for the reinstatements was immediately provided, Mr Musk has said he is “personally paying” for the Twitter Blue subscriptions of users including American basketball player LeBron James, author Stephen King and Canadian actor William Shatner, who have criticised the paid subscription’s rollout.

Some found humour in the situation. “I can only assume this is a gift for all the bath pics over the years,” wrote British comedian Ricky Gervais. – Bloomberg

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