Twitter has revoked the verified “blue check” status of top officials of the Taliban who reportedly paid the $8-a-month subscription fee.
BBC News found that Hedayatullah Hedayat, who heads the group’s “access to information” department, and Abdul Haq Hammad, the top media official at the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture, both had check marks on their profiles with over 188,000 followers and 170,000 followers respectively.
Several other public figures known to be affiliated with the Taliban were also reported to have bought the blue check, though the symbol was not visible as of Tuesday morning.
According to The Guardian, the check marks were removed after the BBC investigation was published and social media outrage ensued. However, it’s unclear if Twitter removed the check marks itself or if the users did.
Elon Musk introduced a new feature of Twitter Blue check shortly after he took over as the new owner of the microblogging company in hopes of generating more revenue.
The service allowed users to pay an $8 monthly fee in exchange for a blue checkmark that grants them priority ranking in search, mentions, and replies.
However, before Musk took over the company, check marks were awarded to certain accounts as a means of conferring their status as public figures, including celebrities, politicians, entertainers, and prominent journalists.
Elon Musk Twitter-Blue is a color-coded system where gold checkmarks are reserved for businesses while gray symbols are for governing authorities.