Elon Musk’s Twitter has removed the verification ticks that used to be given free to celebrities and relevant people. Now only paying subscription customers have the same-looking icon on their profiles – but without real identity verification.

Among the celebrities whose accounts lost the white tick on a blue background late Thursday were footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, actress Halle Berry and numerous music stars including Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Shakira and Justin Timberlake.

At the same time, bestselling author Stephen King and basketball player LeBron James, who previously refused subscription payments, surprisingly kept their verification symbols. Twitter owner Elon Musk said he personally pays for some profiles. According to technology blog The Verge, James declined Twitter’s offer to pay for the subscription. The catch remained at first anyway. Stephen King made it a point to state that he was not a subscription customer. “You’re welcome,” Musk tweeted back.

The explanatory text for the ticks says that the account is paying for a subscription and its telephone number has been confirmed. In the case of James and King, Twitter thus gives the impression that two prominent critics of the new system are now taking part. At the same time, Rihanna and Taylor Swift, among others, kept their verification symbols – and initially did not comment on what basis. Otherwise, users with the check mark often identify themselves as fans of Musk.

Twitter introduced the symbols so users could be sure that no one was impersonating a celebrity, politician, or athlete. After buying Twitter for around $44 billion, tech billionaire Elon Musk claimed that the process for assigning the ticks was “corrupt” and that some of them were distributed arbitrarily by Twitter employees. The system has divided users into “lords and pawns”, so everyone should now pay for it. Now, of all people, Musk himself decided who should keep a tick without paying for it.

The first fake profiles appeared on Friday night. A tweet from “@NYC_GOVERNMENT” claimed that this was the official account for the city of New York. The real “@nycgov” profile also doesn’t have a tick icon. A profile with the name and photo of writer J.K. Rowling apologized for her controversial comments over the past few months. Both fake accounts were blocked a little later.

Now anyone can pretend to be her, criticized the singer Dionne Warwick the day before, whose profile also lost the verification tick. Even when the payment hook was introduced in November, there was chaos with deceptively real fake accounts from some celebrities and companies. After that, additional precautions were introduced.

Traditionally, most of Twitter’s business has come from advertising. After the Musk acquisition, there was a churn of advertisers. He now hopes more for subscription revenues from users and companies. Making the tick icon part of a subscription is part of the plan.

With the new model, there is actual verification only for companies. But they should also pay significantly more money for their golden tick: 950 euros per month instead of 9.52 euros for individual users.