Social Media

I tweet dead people: Twitter’s new paid blue ticks given to deceased celebrities, including murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi

- April 24, 2023 3 MIN READ
Elon Musk
More sinking than sinking in... Elon Musk. Source: Twitter.
Last week, Elon Musk finally had his long-awaited Thanos moment for legacy verification in a rapid scheduled disassembly.

It was a busy day for the boss of Twitter and SpaceX when it comes to valuable lessons from watching billions of dollars of hard work explode.

But if we’re to believe Musk (this time) after the removal of free verification ticks, anyone with one now has “subscribed to Twitter Blue and verified their phone number”.

That fact reveals the long game and true genius of Musk, since he’s just created the most important platform for speaking with the dead since Doris Stokes and Tyler Henry.

Among those who’ve been in touch with Twitter recently, sharing their afterlife credit card details and phone number – prefix +777 we assume – are celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, basketball legend Kobe Bryant, Michael Jackson, Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman and Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington.

But the one that’s caught the eye of many, especially in the media, is Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident Saudi journalist and The Washington Post correspondent who was murdered and dismembered by agents of the Saudi government in 2018 when he visited their consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2018.

The CIA concluded that Saudi leader Crown Prince bin Salman ordered the assassination.

Now it’s possible that the estates of the dead celebrities have signed up – the “King of Pop’s Official Twitter Account” continues to tweet Michael Jackson stories to its 2.3 million followers every few days. But Bryant’s account fell silent on the day he died in January 2020. Bourdain’s too, after he ended his life in 2018.

Jamal Kashoggi

Jamal Khashoggi’s Twitter account.

Khashoggi also died nearly five years ago too and his account has not posted since then either, so why or how would it now be verified?

But the other reason this is raising eyebrows is that among the investors in Musk’s Twitter takeover deal, the second largest largest shareholder is a Saudi royal, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz, who has a 4% stake in the social media platform via his company, Kingdom Holdings, worth around US$1.9 billion at the time the deal when through in October 2022.


The Prince, incidentally, has a blue tick because of his association with Kingdom Holding. Musk has a blue tick because he’s associated with Twitter, his account says.

Prince Alwaleed’s account

Meanwhile, celebrities who are alive, and found, to their surprise, that they had a blue tick, including author Stephen King, who’s had repeated public clashes with Musk. At that point, Musk said he was picking up the tab for the celebrity tweeters involved.


As a lesson in pissing off your customers, it’s a masterclass.

No doubt Musk thinks he’s schooling the haters, especially LeBron James, who’d refused to pay.

Funny thing is the basketball legend, normally prolific on Twitter, has simply stopped tweeting to his nearly 53 million followers after his team told The Verge . The account has been silent for more than a week. A spokesperson for James told The Verge that a Twitter employee emailed the star to “extend a complimentary subscription to Twitter Blue for your account, @kingjames, on behalf of Elon Musk”.

In doing so, Musk managed to infuriate his Muskolytes ,who believed their god king’s promise to democratic equality for all, but now find they’re forking over US$8 a month while millionaire celebs get their tick for free, compliments of the billionaire Twitter boss.

Musk has also created a whole new marketing category, the celebrity disendorsement.

And here’s the kicker for the man previously who ended up in trouble with the US Securities Exchange Commission over “420” jokes about Tesla, could not find another government body on his case over his 4/20 move, because giving celebs free blue ticks has the potential to violate Federal Trade Commission (verified on Twitter “because it is a government or multilateral organization account”) rules around deceptive endorsement.

If so, queue up some more rapid unscheduled disassembly.

We’d ask Twitter to comment for this, but the guy who’s halved the value of the social media platform in just 12 months sees himself as Jim Levenstein in search of a pie.