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NYT refuses Twitter verification fee and loses verified status

By Sarah May
|
April 3, 2023

As a consequence of its refusal to pay the fee now required for a blue check mark on Twitter, the New York Times' main account on the platform was stripped of its “verified” status, as the Associated Press reports, marking the latest flare-up of the ongoing tensions between the media outlet and the social media company's CEO, Elon Musk.

The paper's change in status did not come as a complete surprise, given that Musk had previously issued a deadline of April 1 for individuals and organizations interested in keeping their existing verifications to remit the applicable sums.

Gray Lady says no

In keeping with Twitter's new terms, the price to maintain a check mark now ranges from $8 monthly for individual users to a beginning price of $1,000 monthly for organizational accounts. From there, affiliate or employees of those entities can keep their check marks for $50 per month, per account, as the AP noted.

After deciding that it would not pay the fees necessary to keep their check marks in good standing, the New York Times had the verification on its main account pulled on Sunday.

“We aren't planning to pay the monthly fee for check mark status for our institutional Twitter accounts,” the Times declared in a statement.

The paper added, “We also will not reimburse reporters for Twitter Blue for personal accounts, except in rare instances where this status would be essential for reporting purposes,” though as of Sunday, ancillary NYT accounts, such as those related to its business and opinion sections, retained their verified statuses, as did the accounts of some of the organization's employees.

Musk reacts

Never one to withhold his honest reactions to the latest controversy, Musk replied to the Times' decision not to pay the aforementioned fee to keep its check mark by tweeting, “Oh ok, we'll take it off then,” and it was not long after that the verification did indeed disappear, as the Daily Mail noted.

Musk did not stop there in terms of disparaging the Times, later opining, “The real tragedy of @NYTimes is that their propaganda isn't even interesting” and stating that “their feed is the Twitter equivalent of diarrhea. It's unreadable.”

Speaking to the substance of the issue, Musk also noted, “NY Times is being incredible [sic] hypocritical here, as they are super aggressive about forcing everyone to pay *their* subscription.”

The weekend war of words between the paper and Musk was certainly not the first time the Twitter CEO has leveled significant criticism against the outlet. In November of last year, he took to the platform to assert, “It is tragic how far the New York Times has fallen – basically just boring af far left brainwashing at this point. The boring part is truly unforgiveable!”

Domino effect?

The position taken by the NYT has found support among a number of other left-leaning outlets, with the Washington Post stating recently that “it's evident that verified checkmarks no longer represent authority and expertise,” according to the Mail, and therefore have limited utility.

The Los Angeles Times followed suit, sending a memo to employees echoing the same stance. “First of all, verification no longer establishes authority or credibility. Instead, it only means that someone has paid for a Twitter Blue subscription,” the communication began.

“Secondly, while Twitter remains an important tool for newsgathering, it is not as reliable as it once was. We will not be paying to verify our organization on Twitter either. It is still unclear if there's actual value in doing so, beyond identifying all of us as L.A. Times staffers,” the memo went on.

According to Reuters, Politico has also decided not to reimburse verification fees for its staffers, and the Associated Press has announced that it also will decline to pay in order to maintain its status on the platform.

High-profile debate

Musk has engendered substantial animosity on the left since acquiring Twitter, attempting to re-cast the company in a manner conductive to free speech, and helping expose the censorship culture that permeated the platform in the past.

As such, it is not just news outlets such as the New York Times that have made public shows of disapproval of the way in which Musk is running Twitter, with a number of high-profile celebrities and officials also vowing not to pay the new fees, as the Mail notes.

Basketball legend LeBron James, singing star Dionne Warwick, actress Chrissy Teigen, and others have registered their opposition with the new system and pledged noncompliance with the policy. The White House has also announced that it would skip paid verifications for staffers, though Twitter has allotted a gray mark for President Joe Biden and Cabinet-level secretaries at no cost.

It seems clear that numerous household names are fully prepared to ditch their Twitter-verified status rather than pay a cent to Elon Musk, but what remains to be seen is whether rank-and-file platform users in sufficient numbers will indeed subscribe and render the mercurial CEO's gambit worthwhile.