Twitter removes blue ticks reportedly bought by Taliban officials

Photo: Twitter

Twitter appears to have removed the verified “blue check” status of senior Taliban members who are believed to have paid the $8-a-month subscription fee.

At least two Taliban officials were found to have subscribed to the Twitter Blue service, an investigation this week by BBC found.

But after the BBC News service reported the Taliban officials’ verified status, Twitter appears to have canceled their subscriptions.

A glance at the Twitter account pages for Taliban officials Abdul Haq Hammad and Hedayatullah Hedayat showed that as of Tuesday there was no “blue check” next to their handles but that there had been blue ticks earlier in the week.

Several other public figures known to be affiliated with the Taliban were also reported to have bought the blue tick, though the symbol was not visible as of late Tuesday, the BBC reported.

Hammad, whose account boasts more than 170,000 followers, is the head of the media watchdog unit at the Taliban’s ministry of information and culture.

The account run by Hedayat, a top official in the Taliban’s information department, who has more than 188,000 followers, had the blue check mark — as indicated by a screenshot taken Monday.

Before Elon Musk bought Twitter, check marks were awarded to certain accounts as a means of conferring their status as public figures, including celebrities, politicians, entertainers, and prominent journalists.

In December, Twitter introduced its “Twitter Blue” service in hopes of generating more revenue and allowing users to pay an $8 monthly fee in exchange for a blue checkmark that grants them “priority ranking in search, mentions, and replies.”

Before the introduction of Twitter Blue, none of the observed accounts for Taliban officials carried the blue tick mark – that was then used to indicate the identities of users verified by Twitter.

After their return to power in Kabul in August 2021, the group took over verified accounts run by the previous administration, including the Afghanistan Cricket Board. The sporting body’s account now carries a gold tick.

Under Twitter’s new policies, gold check marks indicate businesses, while gray ones are for other users, such as governing authorities.

Taliban officials have been prolific users of Twitter, using the platform to disseminate key messages.