A News Guard’s ‘misinformation monitor’ report has revealed that Twitter’s “blue check” which was previously an indication of an account’s authenticity, has now become a tool for propagators of false information to present themselves as credible.
Initially, Twitter created its verification system to boost users’ confidence in the platform by placing a blue check mark next to the names of public figures, companies, journalists, and organisations, however; currently, the blue check mark can be obtained by paying a monthly fee of $7.99. This move is part of Musk’s effort to increase the company’s revenue, which he acquired for $44 billion.
News Guard’s report highlights that the blue checkmark has become a tool for peddlers of misinformation to appear trustworthy and legitimate.
According to the report, numerous Twitter accounts with a history of spreading false information, some of whom were only recently readmitted to the platform, are now paying $8 a month to obtain a blue checkmark through Twitter Blue, the verification system.
This is giving them an appearance of credibility.
NewsGuard found that 25 misinformation superspreader accounts that were “verified” by Twitter Blue accounts cumulatively posted 141 tweets (original and quote tweets) containing false, misleading, and unsubstantiated claims between March 1 and March 7, 2023.
“These tweets were viewed nearly 27 million times and received more than 760,000 likes and retweets during this period, the NewsGuard analysis determined. The 25 accounts also cumulatively retweeted 35 posts containing misinformation, bringing the total number of tweets and retweets identified by NewsGuard for advancing false, misleading, or unsubstantiated information to 176,” the report stated.
According to NewsGuard, out of those 25 accounts, 10 were reinstated under Musk after being suspended under Twitter’s previous ownership.
Most false information shared by the accounts are bordering on the COVID-19 vaccine, the Russia-Ukraine war, among others.
Twitter Blue initiative permits individuals worldwide to feature a blue checkmark on their profile by paying a monthly fee of $8. For organisations, the cost is now $1,000 per month, which grants them the ability to efficiently handle connected accounts like subsidiaries and representatives.
Twitter previously used “Legacy” verification based on “authenticity, notability, and activity” to confirm user accounts before Musk’s acquisition. However, Twitter has started phasing out Legacy verification from April 20.
Nurudeen Akewushola is a fact-checker with FactCheckHub. He has authored several fact checks which have contributed to the fight against information disorder. You can reach him via email@example.com and @NurudeenAkewus1 via Twitter.