Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb checks his phone before presenting the city's 2023 budget proposal to City Council.
Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb checks his phone before presenting the city's 2023 budget proposal to City Council. Credit: Nick Castele / Signal Cleveland

Cleveland City Hall won’t pay for Twitter verification after its @MayorBibb, @CityofCleveland and @ClevelandFire accounts lost their blue checkmarks this week in a shakeup under the social media platform’s new owner, billionaire Elon Musk. 

Instead, the city is applying for Twitter’s new gray checkmark, which denotes official government social media accounts, according to press secretary Marie Zickefoose.  

Previously, Twitter used a blue check icon to indicate that an account was authentic – distinguishing the accounts of celebrities, companies, governments, journalists and others from potential hoax accounts. Now, Musk has made the blue check a paid feature, called Twitter Blue, that costs $8 per month. 

The lapse in Mayor Justin Bibb’s verification left an opening for a parodist to create an account mimicking his official Twitter presence.

“Clevelanders, I have lost my blue check and many of my previous followers, please follow this account to continue to remain updated with all things Cleveland!” the parody account posted. 

Bibb asked his followers to report the parody. The hoax account responded by suggesting the mayor’s account was the fake one. 

“We have reported the impersonator and we’re working directly with Twitter to resolve this issue as soon as possible,” Zickefoose told Signal Cleveland in a text message Friday. “We will not be purchasing blue checks for government accounts.”

Twitter suspended the parody account later on Friday.

Zickefoose said the city will begin by trying to regain verification status of its main city accounts, before moving on to public safety and other department accounts. 

The city doesn’t just use its main Twitter account to share news from the Bibb administration. It also posts winter weather advisories, road closure announcements and news about food distributions.

The Cleveland police account – which posts updates on missing people and unsolved crimes – already has a new gray verification check. 

The social media chaos did not touch Bibb’s personal Twitter account, @JustinMBibb, which held on to its blue checkmark. A note on that account indicates it is subscribed to Twitter Blue.

Government Reporter (he/him)
Nick joins us from the world of public radio. He has more than a decade experience covering politics and government in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. In 2021, he produced and hosted "After Jackson: Cleveland's Next Mayor," an Ideastream Public Media podcast on the Cleveland mayoral race. He has also covered breaking news, opioid lawsuits and elections nationally for NPR.