Break out your tiny violins: the Twitter blue check purge is here

Celebrities and other VIPS across the world— including Bill Gates, the pope and Hillary Clinton — were devoid of official checkmarks Thursday afternoon as self-dubbed Twitter chief twit Elon Musk’s promised purge of legacy Twitter verifications came to fruition.

The purge also affected commoners such as foodies, podcasters and video game streamers, among other non-celebrities.

“Tomorrow, 4/20, we are removing legacy verified checkmarks,” the company Tweeted Wednesday. The choice of April 20 was speculated by many to be a joke by Musk, in reference to the popular marijuana-based holiday. But it was no joke.

Musk, an ultra-rich business magnate, bought the social media giant for $44 billion last year and quickly launched a subscription service that includes a blue checkmark for $8 a month. Twitter’s previous verification system, which was launched in 2009, was intended to prevent impersonations of high-profile accounts such as celebrities and politicians. Before Musk overhauled the site, Twitter had about 423,000 verified accounts. It is uncertain how many are left today.

A number of prominent celebrities apparently did not pay the monthly $8 fee and saw their checkmarks disappear Thursday. Kim Kardashian, Justin Bieber, Halle Berry, Ben Stiller, Bill Gates and many hapless journalists (including this writer) were among those famous and not-so-famous Twitter users who lost verification.

Lakers star LeBron James appears to have been persuaded to subscribe.

“Welp guess my blue ✔️ will be gone soon cause if you know me I ain’t paying the 5,” he said in a tweet in late March, even though the monthly charge is $8.

On Thursday, his profile had a blue check, which when clicked said the following: “This account is verified because they are subscribed to Twitter Blue and verified their phone number.”

There is no blue checkmark on the account of former President Trump, who still has more than 87 million followers on Twitter even though he long ago moved to his own social media site. But there is a checkmark for the account of his son, Donald Trump Jr.

And then there is author Stephen King, who had a checkmark on his account even though he posted that he did not subscribe to the Twitter service. Singer Rihanna has a checkmark and so does Miley Cyrus but not Selena Gomez.

Pope Francis seems to have lost his blue check. “God’s gaze never stops with our past filled of errors, but looks with infinite confidence at what we can become,” the Pontifex account tweeted Thursday. Without a verification symbol, The Times could not verify that the account belonged to the pope.

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