Twitter verified fake Disney account, claims dead celebs subscribe to Twitter Blue

Twitter verified fake Disney account, claims dead celebs subscribe to Twitter Blue
Apr 2023

Twitter's big checkmark transition brought more of the chaos that has typified Elon Musk's run as owner and CEO of the social network. Over the weekend, Twitter applied checkmarks to the accounts of many well-known people who didn't pay for them--including some dead celebrities--along with a message that the accounts subscribed to the $8-per-month Twitter Blue service.

"This account is verified because they are subscribed to Twitter Blue and verified their phone number," states the message attached to accounts with blue badges, including those of Kobe Bryant and Chadwick Boseman. Meanwhile, living celebrities who got the same checkmark made sure to tell followers that they hadn't actually paid for a Twitter Blue monthly subscription or verified their phone number. It would be more accurate to say that Twitter gave free subscriptions to people with a large number of followers, whether they wanted the checkmarks or not.

A blue checkmark on Twitter used to indicate that an account was notable and that Twitter had verified that the person running the account was who they said they were. Now, some famous people who got the checkmark want to make sure that no one mistakenly believes they're giving Musk's company $8 a month. As Slate writes, Musk's decision to remove "legacy" checkmarks and make them a premium feature "turned the blue checkmark into a scarlet letter."

Twitter also made a notable mistake last night in awarding its gold verification badge to a fake Disney account that had posted racist slurs. The gold badges come with the message, "This account is verified because it's an official organization on Twitter."

The fake "DisneyJuniorUK" account got the gold checkmark despite having barely more than 1,000 followers, an Internet Archive capture shows. It gained a few thousand more followers before being suspended.

"We understand Disney reps in the UK became aware of the fake account this morning and contacted counterparts at Twitter immediately," Deadline wrote today. Though Twitter is charging businesses $1,000 a month for gold checkmarks, it reportedly waived the fee for its top 500 advertisers and for the 10,000 most-followed organizations that were verified.

Dead celebrities "verified their phone number"

The unpaid-for blue checkmarks (technically, white or black checkmarks on a blue background) are generally appearing on accounts with at least 1 million followers. Programmer Travis Brown, who has been tracking Twitter Blue subscriber IDs, wrote yesterday that he "found 110 accounts with more than a million followers that are not marked as Blue subscribers, out of a total of 9,884."

"Almost all accounts with more than 1 million followers were 'gifted' a Twitter Blue subscription yesterday against their will," analyst Oliver Alexander wrote.

Applying checkmarks to notable accounts isn't so different from the pre-Musk system. But a big difference now is the message attached to the checkmark suggests that the account holder paid for the badge and verified their identities.

Dead celebrities who are claimed to be subscribed to Twitter Blue include Kobe Bryant, actor Chadwick Boseman, comedian Norm Macdonald, rapper Mac Miller, and chef Anthony Bourdain. Abe Shinzo, the Japanese prime minister who was assassinated in July 2022, also has the label claiming he "subscribed to Twitter Blue" and verified his phone number.

While it's possible that whoever manages a deceased person's account paid for Twitter Blue, that doesn't appear to be the case here. The most recent tweet on the Bryant account is dated January 25, 2020, one day before the Basketball Hall of Famer's death. While Boseman's account continues to make posts after his death, the Macdonald, Miller, Bourdain, and Abe accounts all have zero posts since shortly before their deaths.