Elon Musk’s changes to Twitter are even allowing Taliban officials get blue ticks next to their account names, a report reveals.
Two officials and four prominent supporters of Afghanistan’s militant political movement have been given the checkmarks, according to the BBC.
Among them is Abdul Haq Hammad, head of the media watchdog at the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture, who has 170,000 followers.
Meanwhile, among the prominent Taliban supporters given a blue tick is Muhammad Jalal, who declared on Monday that Elon Musk was ‘making Twitter great again’.
Hedayatullah Hedayat is head of the Taliban’s department for ‘access to information’. A screenshot by the BBC shows the blue tick next to his name
Among the prominent Taliban supporters given a blue tick is Muhammad Jalal, who declared on Monday that Elon Musk was ‘making Twitter great again’
What does the blue tick mean?
On Twitter, the definition of verification and the accompanying blue checkmark is ‘changing’, Elon Musk’s firm says.
Until recently, Twitter used the blue tick to indicate active, notable, and authentic accounts of public interest that Twitter had independently verified based on certain requirements.
Now the blue checkmark indicates an account has an active subscription to Twitter Blue, its subscription service.
Twitter explains: ‘Accounts that receive the blue checkmark as part of a Twitter Blue subscription will not undergo review to confirm that they meet the active, notable and authentic criteria that was used in the previous process.’
Musk’s changes are still rolling out, so right now a blue tick can still mean that an account was verified under the previous verification criteria.
Twitter users can click on someone’s blue tick to learn more.
The Taliban ruled three-quarters of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, before being overthrown following the US invasion.
However, Taliban forces recaptured capital city Kabul in August 2021 after nearly 20 years and took back control of the country.
The Taliban government has been strongly criticised for restricting human rights in Afghanistan, including the right of women and girls to work and to have an education, and no countries have extended diplomatic recognition to its new regime.
The BBC report identified two Taliban officials with blue ticks – Hedayatullah Hedayat (@Hedayatullah111), who has 188,000 followers, and Abdul Haq Hammad (@AbdulHaqHammad2), who has 170,000 followers.
Both seem to be involved in media and communications for the Taliban – Hedayat is head of the Taliban’s department for ‘access to information’, while Haq Hammad is head of the media watchdog at the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture.
However, it seems that Twitter has reversed the decision to award the ticks as they can no longer be seen on any of the three accounts.
It’s possible Twitter staff only became alerted to their Taliban connections by the BBC report and rescinded them.
According to the BBC, Twitter has allowed ‘hard-line Islamists’ on Twitter for some time, even before Musk took over.
MailOnline has contacted Twitter for comment, although there haven’t been any replies from the firm’s communications department since Musk laid off its staff last autumn.
Musk – who regularly responds to user questions on the platform – is yet to comment on the matter.
Taliban forces recaptured capital city Kabul in August 2021 after nearly 20 years and took control of the country. Pictured: Taliban fighters are seen on the back of an armoured vehicle in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 16, 2021
Since taking over Twitter in October, one of the biggest changes Musk has made has been to the social media platform’s verification system
New Twitter feature copies TikTok
Elon Musk seems to have taken inspiration from TikTok for his latest revamp of Twitter.
Twitter users are now automatically landing on a new tab on the homepage called ‘For You’.
For You (the same name as a feature on TikTok) shows tweets from accounts users do and don’t follow, all out of order and boosted by an algorithm.
Twitter users can switch between For You and the alterative tab option, ‘Following’. The change was originally introduced to iOS before rolling out to web; Android is yet to get it.
The billionaire entrepreneur bought Twitter in October and soon after changed the meaning of the blue tick, which appears on a user’s profile next to their account name.
Previously, before Musk took over, the blue tick indicated that an account belonging to someone of public interest – such as a celebrity, politician or journalist – has been verified and is authentic.
The blue tick became a helpful visual indicator to let other users know that an account marked the official home of the user it claimed to represent, and not an imitator.
But, as Twitter’s recently modified help page now explains, all this changed following Musk’s $44 billion takeover in October.
Now, anybody can get the blue tick next to their name to show that their account is verified as long as they pay at least £8/$8 (not including VAT) for Twitter Blue, a monthly subscription service that gives access to several exclusive features.
As well as a blue tick next to the account name, Twitter Blue also includes custom app icons, the ability to post longer videos, the ability to undo a tweet immediately after posting it, and, for subscribers in certain countries, the ability to edit tweets.
Musk has already run into problems with the revamp of Twitter Blue; shortly after launch users were changing account names and photos to resemble an official account and paying to give it a blue tick to make it look authentic.
Accounts imitated included Nintendo America, Donald Trump, LeBron James, George W Bush and Rudy Giuliani, leading to various rude, offensive or amusing tweets under their name.
MailOnline has contacted Twitter for comment, although there haven’t been any replies from the firm’s communications department since Musk laid off its staff last autumn
In November, Twitter user @nlntendodoofus was able to change its account name to ‘Nintendo of America’ and get a blue tick next to it to make it look official – and then posted an offensive image, before being suspended
Musk had to temporarily suspend the relaunch of Twitter Blue in November, ‘to make sure that it is rock solid’, he said at the time.
Twitter Blue relaunched in December; however, it is still only for web and iOS as the Android version is still yet to launch.
Also recently, some Twitter accounts are having their profile pictures changed from a circle to a square shape with rounded corners.
These are being added to verified business accounts on the platform as another way to differentiate them along with the new system of coloured checkmarks.
Twitter will also be ditching the 280 character limit to allow longer tweets ‘soon’, the billionaire owner said – potentially up to a whopping 4,000 characters.
Timeline of Elon Musk’s eventful time at Twitter so far
October 27: Musk is officially made the new owner of Twitter, and tweets ‘the bird is freed’.
November 1: Musk confirms plans to change the system of ‘Blue Tick’ verification on Twitter, for a reduced subscription fee of $8 a month.
November 4: Musk lays off half of Twitter’s workforce as an alleged cost-cutting measure, claiming he had ‘no choice’.
November 9: Musk launches the ‘Twitter Blue’ subscription service which verifies accounts for a monthly fee.
November 11: The Twitter Blue service is paused due to accounts purchasing verification and using it to impersonate brands and public figures.
November 12: Musk fires 80 per cent of Twitter contractors without warning.
November 15: Musk fires employees that posted negatively about him on the business messaging app Slack. The lawsuit between Musk and Twitter is dismissed.
November 16: Twitter staff are told they need to sign a pledge to be able to stay on in their roles where they would be ‘working long hours at high intensity’ or receive three months of severance pay, resulting in a mass exodus.
November 18: A news-ticker was projected onto Twitter HQ in San Francisco dubbing Musk as a ‘space Karen’, ‘mediocre manchild’ and ‘bankruptcy baby’.
November 23: A Twitter user reported that 5.4 million phone numbers and email addresses leaked on the dark web, before his account was suspended.
November 26: Financial Times revealed that 50 of the platform’s top 100 advertisers have paused their ads.
November 29: Platformer reported that Twitter is in the process of reinstating around 62,000 banned accounts that each have more than 10,000 followers.
December 12: Twitter Blue is re-launched with new Blue Tick reviewing process.
January 11: Twitter starts automatically redirecting users to the ‘For You’ tab – its algorithmic feed of tweets – every time they open the app