Things continue going swimmingly on Twitter, where owner Elon Musk seems intent on infuriating the site’s most popular content creators. That plan picked up pace this week when he started forcing blue and yellow checkmarks on celebs who haven’t even paid for them. And now, it seems even the creator of the beloved manga SPYxFAMILY has been caught in the crossfire.
The check you can’t rub out
The controversy centers on Twitter’s Verified and Blue programs. In the past, users could become Verified users if they were “accounts of note” – i.e., individuals or organizations with a well-known reputation. Verified users had a blue checkmark next to their names.
The verification process was free but the approval process was opaque. However, it did help Twitter users identify that an account purporting to belong to a celebrity or a brand was, in fact, that celebrity or brand’s account.
Musk’s Twitter turned this system on its head, giving the blue checkmark to any user who paid $8/month for its Twitter Blue subscription service. Additionally, Musk announced recently that “legacy” verified users would lose their blue checkmarks on April 20th unless they subbed to Twitter Blue.
(Is that a marijuana joke? Maybe. Musk famously bought Twitter for $42.00 a share – but later testified in court that the number was just a “coincidence”.)
April 20th has come and gone – and the vast majority of Legacy Twitter Verified users didn’t make the switch. Journalist Ben Collins says that some 17,000 of the previously 420,000 (nice) legacy verified users had already signed up for Twitter Blue. However, before the forced cutoff, only an additional 28 users made the switch. (This was based on data collected by Travis Brown using the Twitter API.)
But then, something truly unhinged happened. Famous users who swore up and down they did not – and would never – sign up for Twitter Blue saw their checkmarks come back.
One of the most famous cases is Stephen King. Musk verified in a follow-up tweet to the author’s complaint that he did, in fact, give King a comped Twitter Blue subscription without his knowledge or consent.
Another famous Twitter personality, Dril, has found himself in a seasaw battle with the site. After being given the checkmark, Dril changed his display name. In the old verification system, changing your display name or profile picture caused the checkmark to disappear until your account was reviewed manually. However, his checkmark later came back.
Dril has shot back with a series of posts mocking Musk and his various initiatives, such as his “Hyperloop” transportation system. As of publication time, Dril’s account lacks the blue checkmark.
It doesn’t appear there’s any rhyme or reason to who’s getting the checkmarks. Some people have claimed they’re going to all accounts with more than 1 million followers. However, others have noted the checkmark appearing on inactive accounts under that threshold.
Additionally, in a somewhat ghoulish development, Twitter appears to be giving the checkmark back to accounts, like Kobe Bryant and Anthony Bourdain, whose owners no longer number among the living.
Musk has said in the past that he sees Japan as a huge market for Twitter. (That’s something we at UJ have known for a while.) So it’s no surprise that some famous Japanese accounts would find themselves caught up in this mess.
That’s what seemingly happened to Endo Tatsuya (遠藤達哉). Endo is the manga-ka behind the popular manga and anime SPYxFAMILY. The series focuses on the Forgers, a fake family consisting of a spy, an assassin, and a telepathic child, and the very real bonds that eventually develop between them.
Somehow, Endo’s Twitter account ended up with a gold checkmark. It was a surprise to the author. In a tweet to his account, he mocked the “gift” from Musk with a picture of SPYxFAMILY character Anya Forger looking befuddled at the gold check, saying “I didn’t do nothin'”.
The gold checkmark is reserved for members of the Verified Organizations program, which is itself proving a source of controversy. One user, VTuber FeFe (@CovfefeChan), applied and was rejected…only to find out that the USD $1,000 application fee was nonrefundable. (They did get their money back, though.)
It’s not clear why Endo, an individual, received an organizational gold checkmark. It’s an ironic twist, however. In the series, Anya attends Eden Academy, an elite private school, to help her spy “dad”, Loid, get closer to a state official. As part of her quest to advance at the school, she attempts to earn gold stars, or Stella Stars.
One user said wryly, “Elon must be a fan.” Another said “congratulations” and posted a modified pic of Anya from the manga sporting the medallion like the gold star from the series.
In an English language Twitter thread from Jeffrey J. Hall on the controversy, some wondered if Endo’s publisher, Shueisha, paid to have him verified. Others speculated that Shueisha might run ads on Endo’s account and that the badges are given to advertisers who spend $1,000 or more in any given month.
Whatever the reason, as of press time, Endo’s account still bears the mark that, for many Twitter users, has quickly become a Scarlet Letter. It remains to be seen how far Musk will continue to take this current policy/joke. Perhaps he’ll eventually repeal it on a Friday at around 4:20pm.
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