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Sex workers explain why #BlockTheBlue and blue check stigma aren’t so simple

Not all new Twitter blue checks like Elon Musk.

Some famous Twitter users have campaigned to #BlockTheBlue as the blue check becomes a sign that you pay $8 a month. They want to block all Twitter Blue subscribers with automated scripts and plug-ins.

The movement assumes that someone willingly paying Twitter for a blue check supports Musk and his allies’ “anti-woke” politics. Harvard Cyberlaw Clinic instructor Alejandra Caraballo posted a blocklist of Blue Verified accounts on GitHub, while beloved meme account dril took such a strong stance on #BlockTheBlue that it seems Elon Musk gave him a blue check to troll him.

Crypto spam accounts use Twitter Blue to gain visibility, while others post hateful content. Even if they oppose Musk’s Twitter changes, some online creators and sex workers need Twitter Blue to survive.

“People are motivated to pay for software based on use case, not political leaning,” said Ashley, a sex worker and researcher who prefers not to give her full name.

Sex workers, who have been deplatformed, shadowbanned, and cut off from life-sustaining income sources, value Twitter Blue’s $8 safety net. Twitter Blue offers prioritized search rankings, SMS two-factor authentication, and longer video uploads.

“I do think we can point to the concrete evidence that having Twitter Blue will boost your visibility,” said Dr. Olivia Snow, a UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry dominatrix who studies sex work and tech policy. Sex workers often face shadowbanning and search results deprioritization, so Twitter Blue’s automatic boost is crucial.

Only Twitter and Reddit allow explicit sexual content. Sex workers need Twitter to direct customers to their paid offerings on OnlyFans.

Snow told that Twitter is sex workers’ main advertising platform.

The #BlockTheBlue spreadsheet has nearly 400,000 accounts. Ashley pulled a smaller list of 300 accounts to analyze Twitter Blue users.

“Nothing stands out,” she told . “It’s not a targeted list. The most followed accounts are mostly non-English and people of color.

Picked 50 random names from the spreadsheet again. Half of these users were non-English speakers, and five openly expressed right-wing or anti-LGBTQ views, but they weren’t harassing anyone. The hundreds of thousands of Twitter Blue users dwarf these sample sizes.

Ashley said, “Among English language accounts, I also feel it’s mostly creators, people who might want to upload video longer than two minutes, fan accounts or independent journalists. Left-wing media outlet Unicorn Riot subscribes to Twitter Blue to upload full video journalism clips.

Swell Entertainment YouTuber Amanda Golka subscribed to Twitter Blue for text-based two-factor authentication. She told that after Twitter made this a paywalled feature, errors prevented her from signing up for three types of app-based two-factor authentication, which is not paywalled. She was hacked. She joined Twitter Blue after regaining her account.

“I’m immediately going to put in my description box, ‘I’m not happy I have Twitter Blue either,’” Golka said on YouTube. “Just two-factor authentication.”

App-based two-factor authentication issues make Twitter Blue essential for creators like Golka. Without it, she fears a hacker will steal her followers and lose her account again.

Scammers also worry sex workers. Twitter has made it harder (but not impossible) to impersonate people, even though the blue check has lost much of its meaning. Thus, a blue check still reassures clients. Changes to a user’s display name remove Twitter’s blue check. Some reluctantly verified users use this feature to hide their check by changing their name.

Ashley told that some sex workers are motivated to get the blue check before others. Clients say it helps them distinguish themselves from catfishes.

Ashley said hackers sometimes impersonate sex workers and ask for money.

As much as meme accounts have catfishes, sex workers are the ones whose fans get bilked out of thousands of dollars, Ashley said. “Sex workers lose tens of thousands.”

When well-intentioned people support #BlockTheBlue, sex workers see it as censorship. Snow says we’re all supporting Elon Musk by using Twitter, and Twitter Blue has barely affected the platform’s bottom line.

Snow said Twitter drives the most traffic to OnlyFans. What’s next? We can’t use other platforms.”

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