Elon Musk and William Shatner clashed on Twitter over the weekend after the Star Trek actor complained about being forced to pay to keep his blue checkmark on the platform.
In a tweet on Saturday, Shatner expressed frustration with Twitter’s plan to remove blue checkmarks from the accounts of celebrities, journalists, government officials and other high-profile individuals who don’t pay $84 a year (or $8 a month) for its subscription service, Twitter Blue.
“Hey @elonmusk what’s this about blue checks going away unless we pay Twitter?” he tweeted. “I’ve been here for 15 years giving my ⏰ & witty thoughts all for bupkis. Now you’re telling me that I have to pay for something you gave me for free?”
Musk responded to Shatner on Sunday in a tweet: “It’s more about treating everyone equally. There shouldn’t be a different standard for celebrities.”
The exchange highlights the tension Twitter faces as it rethinks the policies around one of its most iconic features, the blue check, to push as many users as possible to pay for Twitter Blue and bolster its subscription revenue after suffering an advertiser exodus. In the process, Twitter risks alienating some of the VIP users who have long been a key draw for millions to use the platform.
Even before Twitter confirmed plans to phase out so-called “legacy” blue checks for users who didn’t pay for them, there were concerns about the unintended consequences of allowing people to pay for verified accounts and then use those to sow confusion by impersonating others or spreading misinformation.
On Sunday, Monica Lewinsky, an anti-bullying activist with more than one million followers on Twitter, shared a screenshot of several fake accounts bearing her name, including one impersonator who had paid for a blue checkmark.
“[I]n what universe is this fair to people who can suffer consequences for being impersonated? a lie travels half way around the world before truth even gets out the door,” Lewinsky tweeted.
Twitter said it will “begin winding down” the “legacy” blue checks for users on April 1. Musk, however, has been known for trolling on April Fool’s Day, including in 2018 when he falsely tweeted that his electric vehicle company Tesla had gone bankrupt.
CNN’s Chris Isidore contributed to this report.