SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Twitter has announced a subscription service for $7.99 per month with a blue check now only given to verified accounts as new owner Elon Musk plans to overhaul the platform’s verification system just before the US midterm elections.
In an update to Apple iOS devices available in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK, Twitter said that users who “sign up now” for the new “Twitter Blue with verification” check the blue check mark next to their name “just like the celebrities, companies and politicians you already follow.”
But Twitter contributor Esther Crawford tweeted on Saturday that the “new Blue isn’t live yet – the sprint to our launch continues, but some people may see us making updates as we test and push changes in real time.” Verified accounts didn’t seem to lose their checks until now.
It was not immediately clear when the subscription would go live. Crawford told The Associated Press in a Twitter post that it’s “coming soon, but it hasn’t launched yet”. Twitter did not immediately respond to a message asking for comment.
Anyone who can get the blue check could lead to confusion and the rise of disinformation ahead of Tuesday’s election, but Musk tweeted Saturday in response to a question about the risk of impostors posing as verified profiles — such as politicians and election officials — that “Twitter will suspend account on impersonation attempt and keep the money!”
“So if scammers want to do this a million times, it’s just a whole bunch of free money,” he said.
But many fear widespread layoffs that started Friday could break the barriers of content moderation and verification on the social platform that public authorities, election boards, police forces and news outlets use to keep people reliably informed.
The change puts an end to Twitter’s current verification system, which was launched in 2009 to prevent impersonations of high-profile accounts such as celebrities and politicians. Twitter now has about 423,000 verified accounts, many of them regular journalists from around the world that the company verified, regardless of how many followers they had.
Experts have raised serious concerns about flipping the platform’s verification system that, while not perfect, has helped Twitter’s 238 million daily users determine whether accounts they get information from are authentic. Current verified accounts include celebrities, athletes and influencers, along with government agencies and politicians around the world, journalists and news outlets, activists, companies and brands, and Musk himself.
“He knows the blue check has value, and he’s trying to use it quickly,” said Jennifer Grygiel, a social media expert and associate professor of communications at Syracuse University. “He has to gain people’s trust before he can sell them anything. Why buy a car from a seller you know has turned out to be essentially chaotic?”
The update that Twitter made to the iOS version of its app does not mention verification as part of the new blue check system. So far, the update is not available on Android devices.
Musk, who had previously said he wants to “verify all people” on Twitter, has suggested that public figures would be identified in ways other than the blue check. Currently, for example, government officials are identified by text under names that say they are posting from an official government account.
For example, President Joe Biden’s @POTUS account says in gray lettering that it belongs to a “United States government official.”
Seven-time Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton, who has 7.8 million Twitter followers, told the AP: “I could really just delete my Twitter account, I never use it. I think it’s very healthy to socialize for a while. media from my phone.”
“But it’s also a really powerful tool for connecting with people, so I appreciate that and I try to use it as such and not as something that distracts me from the journey I’m on in my life,” he said.
The announcement comes a day after Twitter started firing employees to cut costs and as more companies pause advertising on the platform. while a cautious corporate world waits to see how the platform will work under its new ownership.
About half of the company’s 7,500 employees were laid off, Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of security and integrity, tweeted.
He said the company’s frontline content moderation staff were the group least affected by the job cuts and that “election integrity efforts — including harmful misinformation that can suppress the vote and combating state-backed intelligence operations — are a top priority.” stay.”
Twitter co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey took the blame for job losses.
“I am personally responsible for why everyone is in this situation: I have grown the company size too fast,” he tweeted on Saturday. “Sorry about that.”
Musk tweeted last Friday that there was no choice but to cut jobs “when the company loses more than $4 million a day”. He gave no details on the daily losses on Twitter, saying that workers who lost their jobs were paid three months’ wages as severance pay.
He also said Twitter has already seen “a massive drop in revenue” as advertisers come under pressure from activists to get off the platform, which relies heavily on ads to monetize.
United Airlines became the latest major brand to pause ads on Twitter on Saturday, joining companies like General Motors, REI, General Mills and Audi.
Musk tried to reassure advertisers last week by saying Twitter wasn’t going to be a “free-for-everything hellscape” because of what he calls his commitment to freedom of expression.
But concerns remain about whether a lighter touch of content moderation on Twitter will lead to users sending more offensive tweets. That can hurt companies’ brands if their ads appear next to them.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk on Saturday urged Musk to “ensure that human rights are at the heart of the governance of Twitter”. In an open letter, Türk said reports that the company’s entire human rights team and much of its ethical AI team have been fired was not an “encouraging start.”
“Like all businesses, Twitter needs to understand the damage of its platform and take steps to address it,” Türk said. “Respect for our shared human rights should be the guardrail for the use and evolution of the platform.”
Meanwhile, Twitter can’t simply cut costs to grow profits, and Musk must find ways to generate more revenue, said Dan Ives, an analyst at Wedbush. But that might be easier said than done with the new blue check subscription program.
“Users got this for free,” Ives said. “There could be a huge backlash.”
He expects 20% to 25% of verified Twitter users to sign up initially. A lot is at stake for Musk and Twitter to get this right early on and keep signups running smoothly, he added.
“You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression,” Ives said. “It was a train disaster in the first week for Musk as owner of the Twitter platform. Now you have cut 50% (of the workforce). There are questions about just the stability of the platform and advertisers are looking at this with a keen eye.”
AP Business writer Stan Choe in New York and Associated Press writer Jenna Fryer in Charlotte, NC contributed to this story.