- Twitter added verified checks to accounts of dead celebrities to promote Twitter Blue subscriptions.
- Kobe Bryant, Anthony Bourdain, Chadwick Boseman, and Michael Jackson each got a posthumous check.
- Their accounts said they’d bought a Twitter Blue subscription and verified their phone numbers.
Dead celebrities are the latest to endorse Twitter Blue — at least according to the verification badges applied to their profiles.
Kobe Bryant, Norm Macdonald, Anthony Bourdain, Chadwick Boseman, and Michael Jackson were among the celebrities who each got a posthumous blue check added to their Twitter accounts as the site began to purge legacy verifications on Thursday, pivoting to only displaying the checks on the profiles who pay for the subscription service.
While Musk has not mentioned the deceased celebrity accounts with the badge online, he did appear to acknowledge reports that he mocked leaders of the #BlockTheBlue campaign, a viral Twitter crusade to silence subscribers to Twitter Blue by blocking them. In a tweet responding to reports that he’d given leaders of the anti-Blue movement Verified Blue badges of their own, he wrote with a laughing emoji: “A troll, me??”
On their profiles, as of Saturday evening, the badge distinctly indicates the deceased celebrities had subscribed to Twitter Blue and verified their phone numbers. While someone controlling the estate of the celebrities could, in theory, have verified the celebrities, accounts like Bourdain’s have lain dormant in the years since their deaths, with the only change being the Verified Blue badge.
According to a report by TechCrunch, the relaunch of Twitter Blue — featuring perks like an edit button and new “verified” badge, previously seen by the public as a status symbol for celebrities and now available for purchase by anyone — has been “underwhelming,” earning the social media platform just $11 million in mobile-based subscriptions since Musk brought it back in December.
Twitter Blue, available for $8 per month, has drawn in few new subscribers since its relaunch — according to estimates by programmer Travis Brown, fewer than 600,000 accounts pay for the service. And while campaigns to block people with paid-for verification badges have emerged on the site, the celebrity endorsements appear to be an attempt to market the unpopular service, users speculated.
However, the posthumous Twitter Blue badges may run afoul of laws protecting consumers from false endorsements. In California’s Civil Code 3344.1, any person who uses a deceased personality’s name, voice, signature, or likeness — in any manner — for purposes of advertising or selling products, goods, or services, without consent from the person is liable for $750 or the amount of actual damages sustained, whichever is greater.
“Considering that the blue check states that someone is subscribed to twitter blue and paying for a product, falsely adding that to large accounts may constitute a deceptive trade practice,” Alejandra Caraballo, a clinical instructor at Harvard Law Cyberlaw Clinic, tweeted, adding: “Anyone given this without their approval could have grounds to bring a false endorsement claim. That would be separate from a FTC investigation over deceptive trade practices.”
The Twitter press email responded automatically with a poop emoji to Insider’s request for comment. Musk did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.