Elon Musk’s X inexplicably removed the gold “verified” badge from The New York Times main account on the social media platform on Tuesday.
The platform just as mysteriously replaced the badge with a “blue check” hours after multiple news outlets reported the disappearance.
“The X platform provided no explanation or information for either move,” New York Times spokesman Charlie Stadtlander said.
Removing verification made it harder for the more than 55 million followers of the “paper of record” to tell if the account’s posts — from promos for “Wordle” to news about the Israel-Hamas and Russia-Ukraine wars — were real.
And it came at a time when Musk and his platform, along with other social media and news aggregators, are receiving increasing criticism for not policing the misinformation that is flooding the sites.
It’s not completely clear how many, if any, of the accounts on X operated by The Times were similarly defrocked. Its @NYTimesArts and @NYTScience accounts, still had “blue checks,” Thursday afternoon, but others, like @NYTBusiness and @Wirecutter, its consumer news operation, did not.
The gold badge was removed Tuesday without warning, The Washington Post first reported, noting that its own badge, along with the badges for other major news outlets like The Associated Press, Bloomberg News, The Wall Street Journal and CNN remain.
X did not immediately respond to a request for comment, other than sending its standard auto-reply, “Busy now, please check back later.”
The move comes a few weeks after Musk removed the headlines from news stories posted to the site, and a few months after National Public Radio left the site because it was labeled “state-affiliated media.”
Notably, NPR lost just 1% of its web traffic after exiting the platform.
It’s not the first time The Times has lost its verification. It was among the first accounts to be stripped of its “blue check” when Musk changed the company’s use of the symbols in April, shifting them from a way to verify the user behind the account to a symbol that represents someone who has paid to get one, for a short time leading the site to be awash with imposters. The Times had refused to pay the $1,000 monthly fee for the gold badges created to identify “corporate entities” at the time. It’s not clear if that has something to do with why it was given a blue check.
Musk also has aired multiple personal grudges against The Times, from griping that a poor review of one of Tesla’s cars costing that company orders to claiming it August that it supported calls for genocide with a story about South Africa, stating, “If ever there was a time to cancel that publication, it is now.”
But the confusion over verification is only adding to the chaotic atmosphere on the platform.
Media-tracker NewsGuard on Thursday released a report that found that so-called “verified” accounts are in fact “superspreaders of misinformation” about the Israel-Hamas war, with “74 percent of the platform’s most viral false or unsubstantiated claims” on X were spread by the paid-for blue check accounts.