Twitter’s blue check is really part of a much larger problem



Fig. 1. “Elon Musk shared a video of his entrance on his Twitter account.” Photograph attributed to Elon Musk, October 26, 2022, via the New York Post,[1] fair use.

The company’s blue check mark had become a point of contention among some Twitter users, who saw it as a symbol of classism. Mr. [Elon] Musk played into that, calling the subscription blue-check rollout as a “Power to the people” move.[2]

This is an example of what makes me really grumpy. Elon Musk does have a point about the blue checks. Who qualifies, who doesn’t is indeed arbitrary.[3] When I looked, a few years ago, into who qualified for the blue check, I felt I qualified, but the company disagreed.

But the blue check also indeed served as a signifier of authoritative information,[4] even if from sometime dubious sources: Donald Trump enjoyed the blue check status on his account, for example. And in a context of rampant misinformation and disinformation, this matters. It’s really all part of a much larger problem and fiddling over who gets a blue check really doesn’t touch that.

Edward Ludlow and Kurt Wagner, “Musk Plans to Eliminate Half of Twitter Jobs to Cut Costs,” Bloomberg, November 2, 2022,

Naomi Nix, “Elon Musk says Twitter won’t restore banned accounts for weeks,” Washington Post, November 2, 2022,

David Frum, “Why I Logged Off Twitter,” Atlantic, November 3, 2022,

Mike Isaac and Ryan Mac, “Elon Musk, Under Financial Pressure, Pushes to Make Money From Twitter,” New York Times, November 3, 2022,

Catherine Rampell, “World’s richest man decides to set $44 billion on fire,” Washington Post, November 3, 2022,

Samuel Stolton, “EU Twitterati plot escape amid Musk takeover,” Politico, November 3, 2022,

Suzanne Vranica and Patience Haggin, “General Mills, Audi and Pfizer Join Growing List of Companies Pausing Twitter Ads,” Wall Street Journal, November 3, 2022,

Josh Eidelson, “Twitter Sued for Mass Layoffs by Musk Without Enough Notice,” Bloomberg, November 4, 2022,

Drew Harwell, Cat Zakrzewski, and Isaac Stanley-Becker, “Twitter layoffs gutted election information teams days before midterms,” Washington Post, November 4, 2022,

Sarah E. Needleman and Alexa Corse, “Elon Musk Says Twitter Has Had Massive Revenue Drop as Layoffs Begin,” Wall Street Journal, November 4, 2022,

Sanjay Patnaik, Robert E. Litan, and James Kunhardt, “The national security grounds for investigating Musk’s Twitter acquisition,” Brookings, November 4, 2022,

Faiz Siddiqui, Naomi Nix, and Will Oremus, “Advertisers fleeing, workers in fear: Welcome to Elon Musk’s Twitter,” Washington Post, November 4, 2022,

Shanti Das, “‘Elon Musk doesn’t know what he’s doing’, says former Twitter executive,” Guardian, November 5, 2022,

Tim Higgins, “Twitter Rolls Out Blue Check Marks for Paying Customers,” Wall Street Journal, November 5, 2022,

Kevin V. Nguyen, “How Musk’s Twitter Layoffs Went Down—And What’s Next,” San Francisco Standard, November 5, 2022,

Natalie Ching Mun Choy, “Twitter to Ban Impersonation If Not Labeled Parody, Musk Says,” Bloomberg, November 6, 2022,

David Frum, “Probably too late, but . . .” Twitter, November 7, 2022,

Kurt Wagner, “Twitter Delays Change to Check-Mark Badges Until After Midterms,” Bloomberg, November 6, 2022,

Kurt Wagner and Edward Ludlow, “Twitter Now Asks Some Fired Workers to Please Come Back,” Bloomberg, November 6, 2022,

Stephen Wilmot, “Twitter’s Free Speech Problem Is Tesla’s, Too,” Wall Street Journal, November 7, 2022,

Rebecca Elliott, “Elon Musk Sells Almost $4 Billion of Tesla Stock After Twitter Takeover,” Wall Street Journal, November 8, 2022,

Joseph De Avila, “Twitter Ditches Gray ‘Official’ Label Hours After Launching It,” Wall Street Journal, November 9, 2022,


Competitive authoritarian regime project

Fig. 2. President Lyndon B. Johnson, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Clarence Mitchell during signing ceremony of the voting rights act. Yoichi Okamoto, August 6, 1965, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Voters in several battleground states have rebuked state-level candidates who echoed former president Donald Trump’s false claim that the 2020 presidential race was rigged, keeping election deniers from positions with power over the certification of future presidential election results.

But dozens of other candidates who denied or questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 vote are projected to win seats in Congress.

At least 143 Republican election deniers running for the U.S. House had won their races as of Wednesday morning, ticking past the 139 House Republicans who objected to the counting of electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021. . . .

As of Wednesday morning, more than 165 of 291 election deniers identified by The [Washington] Post were projected to have won, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Rep. Greg Pence (Ind.), the brother of former vice president Mike Pence. Another 40 races had not been called. . . .

Winning candidates for governor, secretary of state and attorney general will assume offices with significant power overseeing American elections. Unofficial projections Tuesday showed that election deniers will amount to a sizable majority within the House Republican caucus, with enormous sway over the choice of the nation’s next speaker should Republicans claim control of the chamber. The speaker would in turn preside over the House in the 2024 election cycle, when the presidential vote could again be contested.[5]

Reuters, “Russia’s Prigozhin admits interfering in U.S. elections,” November 7, 2022,

Ishaan Tharoor, “U.S. democracy slides toward ‘competitive authoritarianism,’” Washington Post, November 8, 2022,

Dan Balz, “The vaunted red wave never hit the shore in midterm elections,” Washington Post, November 9, 2022,

Emma Brown, Amy Gardner, and Rosalind S. Helderman, “Key election deniers concede defeat after disputing Trump’s 2020 loss,” Washington Post, November 9, 2022,

Amy Gardner, “Election deniers score big wins, but also suffer significant setbacks,” Washington Post, November 9, 2022,

Donald Trump

Coup attempt

Fig. 3. Original: The White House. Derivative work: J. J. Messerly, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Amid the wreckage of Republican hopes for a sweeping midterm victory, party activists are looking to cast blame, and the former president will likely receive much of it — for good reasons.

Two candidates whom [Donald] Trump hand-picked for Senate races — Dr. Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania and Herschel Walker in Georgia — lost or trail in states where Republicans had high hopes of winning. The Trump-endorsed Blake Masters in Arizona is also badly behind. Their failures may hand Democrats another two years of control of the Senate, although the final outcome may not be known for days.

Even in the races where they won, candidates whose nominations Trump helped secure ran well behind other Republicans. In Ohio, for example, J.D. Vance took 53% of the vote in defeating Rep. Tim Ryan to hold that state’s Senate seat for the GOP. Other Republican candidates for statewide offices won roughly 60% of the vote. . . .

In 2020, a big part of Trump’s effort to overturn President [Joe] Biden‘s victory involved trying to bully Republican lawmakers in battleground states into either blocking the vote count or simply declaring Trump the winner of their states’ electoral votes.

Those maneuvers failed in the last election, thanks in large part to a handful of Republican legislators who resisted Trump’s pressure, like the speaker of the Arizona House, Rusty Bowers, who was defeated in his primary this year as a result of his defiance.

Trump’s allies have made clear that they would try the same tactics again in 2024 if they could.

But Tuesday night, Republicans lost control of several legislative chambers that would be required to make that ploy work.

In addition to Michigan, Democrats also appear likely to win control of one house of the Pennsylvania Legislature, which Republicans have controlled for decades. And control of Arizona’s Legislature remains uncertain, with many races still undecided.[6]

Isaac Arnsdorf and Josh Dawsey, “Trump absorbs GOP losses, while DeSantis glows with landslide victory,” Washington Post, November 9, 2022,

Dan Balz, “The vaunted red wave never hit the shore in midterm elections,” Washington Post, November 9, 2022,

David Lauter, “The midterm’s big loser: Trump suffers multiple defeats,” Los Angeles Times, November 9, 2022,

Brian Slodysko, “Election takeaways: No sweep for the Republicans after all,” Associated Press, November 9, 2022,


Fig. 4. “Destroyed Russian military vehicles located on the main street Khreshchatyk are seen as part of the celebration of the Independence Day of Ukraine in Kyiv, August 24.” Photograph by Gleb Garanich for Reuters, August 24, 2022,[7] fair use.

James Marson, “Russia Announces a Withdrawal From Kherson, Only Regional Ukrainian Capital It Held,” Wall Street Journal, November 9, 2022,

  1. [1]Thomas Barrabi, “Elon Musk barges into Twitter HQ as deal nears: ‘Let that sink in,’” New York Post, October 26, 2022,
  2. [2]Joseph De Avila, “Twitter Ditches Gray ‘Official’ Label Hours After Launching It,” Wall Street Journal, November 9, 2022,
  3. [3]Elon Musk, “Twitter’s current lords & peasants system for who has or doesn’t have a blue checkmark is bullshit. . . .” Twitter, November 1, 2022,
  4. [4]David Frum, “Why I Logged Off Twitter,” Atlantic, November 3, 2022,
  5. [5]Emma Brown, Amy Gardner, and Rosalind S. Helderman, “Key election deniers concede defeat after disputing Trump’s 2020 loss,” Washington Post, November 9, 2022,
  6. [6]David Lauter, “The midterm’s big loser: Trump suffers multiple defeats,” Los Angeles Times, November 9, 2022,
  7. [7]Reuters, “Ukraine puts destroyed Russian tanks on display in Kyiv,” August 25, 2022,

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