Social Media

Dril and other Twitter power users begin campaign to 'Block the Blue' paid checkmarks

After Elon Musk removed legacy verified users' checkmarks, Twitter's biggest users are blocking everyone who pays.
By Matt Binder  on 
Block the Blue
Popular Twitter accounts are going forward with a plan to "Block the Blue," targeting users who are paying Elon Musk for a checkmark on the platform. Credit: Mashable composite; Twitter, Shutterstock / Rolandas Grigaitis

On Thursday, April 20, Elon Musk made a rare move: He delivered on a promise.

Since acquiring Twitter in October of last year, Musk has been open about his disdain for Twitter's old verification system. Musk has made it clear that "legacy verified" users would eventually lose their checkmarks. And, after missing the originally scheduled date on April 1, yesterday Musk finally removed the blue checkmark from all accounts unless they opted to pay for it via the $8 per month Twitter Blue service.

There are up to about 630,000 subscribers to Twitter Blue at this time, according to independent research Travis Brown, who has been tracking the data(opens in a new tab).

Now, that it's finally happened though, the campaign to "Block the Blue" – that is, any user still with a blue checkmark which signifies they are paying Musk for it – is in full swing.

"99% of twitter blue guys are dead-eyed cretins who are usually trying to sell you something stupid and expensive, and now they want to pay a monthly subscription fee to boost their dog shit posts front and center," Twitter user @dril told me in an email when I asked about his thoughts on the #BlockTheBlue campaign.

"blocking them and encouraging others to do the same on a massive scale is the complete opposite of what they want," he continued. "Its funny."

That's big coming from @dril(opens in a new tab). Part of the "Weird Twitter" subculture of funny shitposting accounts, @dril is a legend on Twitter and his reach goes far beyond any niche community. His tweets are regularly used as replies and memes. Screenshots of his tweets often spread on other platforms. His content empowered him to co-create an Adult Swim show. @dril has built a following of more than 1.76 million followers just with his funny Twitter posts over the years and he's done it almost completely anonymously – he finally confirmed(opens in a new tab) his identity just earlier this month.

To stress how important @dril is to Twitter, let's put it this way: Last month, Platformer reported(opens in a new tab) on a secret "VIP" list of just 35 popular accounts that Musk wanted to promote(opens in a new tab) to users via the algorithm to encourage more use of the platform. That list included NBA star LeBron James, President Joe Biden, YouTube's most subscribed creator Mr. Beast, and @dril.

"I am actively rooting for the downfall of twitter," @dril tells me. "I hope to sabotage their efforts to become profitable, no matter how futile, in the hopes that they will eventually close up shop and release us all from this toilet." 

Despite 15 years of apparent neutrality, @dril was one of the earliest – and certainly biggest – Twitter users to encourage those on the platform to block anyone with a paid bluecheck. This account that was once all about pure comedy is now at the center of a protest movement.

"absolutely block on sight," @dril tweeted(opens in a new tab) back in November, when Musk's Twitter Blue first launched. Included in the tweet was a screenshot of the label Twitter use to put on Blue subscribers in order to differentiate the paid checkmarks from the old "legacy verified" users.

But, @dril is far from the only big Twitter user to follow this new unwritten "Block the Blue" rule on the platform. NBC News reporter Ben Collins(opens in a new tab), Harvard Law Cyberlaw Clinic's Alejandra Caraballo(opens in a new tab), and countless(opens in a new tab) other highly-followed(opens in a new tab) Twitter accounts(opens in a new tab) have already(opens in a new tab) shared their intention(opens in a new tab) to block(opens in a new tab) all Twitter Blue subscribers(opens in a new tab).

There's even a Twitter account for the campaign, @BlockTheBlue(opens in a new tab), which is run by the creator of the automated Twitter account blocking app The Block List.

The Block List creator tells me that the app has unfortunately since shut down(opens in a new tab) due to Twitter's move from its free API plan to its high-priced new enterprise plans for API access, starting at $42,000 per month. However, before the app was killed off, more than 10,000 users were able to get in 610,677,100 automated blocks on Twitter Blue subscribed accounts. And, he's still using the @BlockTheBlue account to urge users to manually block blue checkmarks.

The checkmark stands for something very different now

To be clear, as Max Collins of the hit 90s rock band Eve 6 puts it, Block the Blue is not "just a petty retaliation" against Musk.

"Verification used to mean a person was like an actor or a journalist or something and now it means they’re a white nationalist with 30 followers or they’re hawking crypto or something," said Collins, who is also blocking the blue from his band's @Eve6(opens in a new tab) account, which he runs. 

Collins isn't exaggerating about the types of users subscribing to Twitter Blue either. Disinformation and extremism researchers, like Shayan Sardarizadeh of BBC, have noticed neo-nazis(opens in a new tab) and white supremacists(opens in a new tab) getting verified by Twitter to spread their hate messages. 

"Twitter blue subscribers are without fail the dumbest and most boring twitter users," Collins told me, moving on to the other, non-straight-up-hate accounts who subscribe. "I’ve gotten really good at being able to tell who pays for their blue check just by the quality of their replies to my tweets."

Many who are blocking Twitter Blue subscribers have shared that same sentiment. Paid checkmarks on the site often have very little presence on the platform – and Mashable previously reported, nearly half of all subscribers have less than 1,000 followers – and create low-quality content.

Eve 6 frontman Collins said even before Twitter Blue subscribers were the only ones left with a blue checkmark, you could tell they paid for the account due to their content. For example, Collins told me that if someone was in his replies and "completely misunderstood an obvious joke and he had a blue check, chances are he paid for it."

Of course, not all accounts with a blue checkmark fit the above descriptions. Recent Twitter Blue unsubscribers note that Twitter doesn't remove the checkmark right away. Some former Twitter Blue subscribers have noted that they canceled their paid subscriptions months ago, yet the blue checkmark remains stuck on their account in some apparent glitch. The feature has also been popular among some specific communities like sex workers and users who post long form videos. Still, those saying they'll block the blue have reflected they'll continue on with the blocking.

Under the old Twitter, the company provided blue checkmark badges to "notable" users on the platform. These users included Hollywood celebs, musical artists, pro athletes, and media figures. While the Musk fans who criticized the old system often focused on the "elitism" of the checkmarks, the real reason Twitter created verification is far from nefarious.

Celebrities and other well-known users were often impersonated by scammers or others looking to hurt their brand. After facing a lawsuit from former baseball player Tony La Russa over a fake account, old Twitter decided to roll out(opens in a new tab) its new verification feature in 2009. Twitter quickly grew in popularity with celebrities and musical artists due to the move and in turn many promoted Twitter as the sole way for the public to interact with them on social media.

That now seems to be changing under Musk. Since the removal of the checkmark, a number of celebrities have announced(opens in a new tab) that they were leaving(opens in a new tab) the platform or were considering(opens in a new tab) a move.

And others, including the one of the platform's biggest self-made users @dril, are looking forward to seeing the fallout. 

"everyone has always Hated twitter, even before the day elon dragged a sink into the main office while grinning like a doofus," @dril explained. "nobody respects it, it is almost certainly responsible for a sharp increase in overall human misery, and if my brand must suffer so that this entire Shit hole will perish, that is fine to me."

UPDATE: Apr. 21, 2023, 4:15 p.m. EDT Shortly after this story was published, Twitter suspended the @BlockTheBlue account. It's currently unclear why.

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