Elon Musk’s unconfirmed plan to charge verified Twitter users $8 a month to keep their blue badges is getting a lot of backlash on the platform he hopes to revitalize, and raising questions about the purpose of verification in the first place.
Less than a week after the world’s richest man completed his $44 billion purchase on Twitter, reports emerged that Musk was planning to introduce a paid verification model.
According to The Verge, Musk wants to turn Twitter Blue, the company’s optional $4.99 per month subscription that unlocks additional features, into a subscription package that also verifies users for $19.99 per month. Verified users who do not subscribe to the new plan will lose their verified status after 90 days.
Twitter Blue, which launched last year, gives authorized users access to premium features like “Undo Tweet” (the infamous “edit button.”) However, as The Verge notes, advertising generated the vast majority of Twitter’s revenue. Musk has previously expressed plans to increase the company’s subscription revenue.
However, the high price of the plan was quickly criticized on social networks, in particular by the American novelist Stephen King, who threatened to quit Twitter if the plan was implemented:
Musk responded to King’s tweet by writing, “We have to pay the bills one way or another! Twitter cannot rely entirely on advertisers. How about $8? »
He also has added that audit billing “is the only way to defeat robots and trolls.”
On Tuesday, in a series of vague and messy tweets, Musk appeared to confirm the lower price for verification, and also tried to clarify the rationale behind his plan.
Twitter Blue will cost $8 per month, he explained, with the “price adjusted by country in proportion to purchasing power parity.” The subscription package will also include additional features, including “priority in replies, mentions, and search”, the “ability to post long videos and audio, and half the ads”.
He also claimed that the subscription will provide a “paywall bypass for publishers willing to work with us” and “give Twitter a revenue stream to reward content creators.”
Musk added that a “secondary tag under the name of someone who is a public figure, which is already the case for politicians”, although it was unclear who would qualify as a “public figure”.
The updated version of the plan generated a lot of backlash and chatter about Twitter’s downfall.
Twitter introduced verification in 2009 to make it harder for users to impersonate others. In 2013, it expanded its definition: “Verification is currently used to establish the authenticity of identities on Twitter. The verified badge helps users discover high-quality sources of information and trust that a legitimate source is the author of Tweets in the account.
Currently, anyone can request a verification for freealthough they must meet a number of requirements.
Over time, the blue check mark has become something of a status symbol – a symbol widely mocked on the right. However, it is also an important credibility marker for journalists, health and policy experts, content creators, and more.
For example, as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe, Twitter began working to vet hundreds of public health experts and epidemiologists to minimize misinformation.
Critics worry that a paid verification model will not only make it harder to identify credible experts, but potentially lend an air of authenticity to anyone willing to pay.
“The checkmark makes Twitter an easier environment to process and believe news, and to the extent that Twitter wants people to go there for new information, that matters a lot,” Alex Kirshner wrote in Slate. “If anyone can buy this symbol of authenticity, it ceases to confer any at all.”
“It seems somewhat inconsistent to me to want Twitter to have less spam, bots and scammers, and then ALSO remove verification and charge people to prove they are real,” wrote Charlie Warzeltechnology editor at The Atlantic.
Others pointed out that the plan is unlikely to generate a significant amount of revenue.
“If up to one in five current blue ticks paid $20 a month, that would bring in just under $15 million a year for Twitter,” James Ball wrote in The New Statesman. “That may sound like decent money, but Twitter’s current revenue (mostly from advertising) is $5 billion a year. Musk’s apparent plan would generate around 30 hours of annual revenue.
Many critics also suggest Musk’s plan contradicts his mission to prioritize unrestricted free speech on Twitter.
“Lmao at a Billionaire Seriously Trying to Sell People the Idea That ‘Free Speech’ Is Actually an $8/Month Subscription Plan”, tweeted US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
US Representative Ilhan Omar also spoke“There was never any question of freedom of expression,”
Comedian Trevor Noah took aim at Musk on the latest episode of ‘The Daily Show’.
“If you ask me, if Elon Musk wants to make money from Twitter, what should he do [is], don’t make people pay for the blue checkmarks,” he said. “Trick white people to say the N word. Twitter will be the most profitable company in history.” Racists will take out loans.
Noah’s joke appeared to refer to a recent report by the National Contagion Research Institute (NCRI), an independent US-based organization concerned with predicting and reporting potential cyber threats, which found that the word N on Twitter had skyrocketed by more than 500% after Musk’s takeover of Twitter.
Yoel Roth, head of security and integrity at Twitter, said on Saturday that “Twitter’s policies have not changed” and that “hateful conduct” is not welcome on the site.
Roth said more than 50,000 tweets using ‘a particular slur’ came from just 300 accounts, bolstering the narrative that the increase in hate speech seen online over the weekend came from a small number of accounts only.
Even more users have mocked Musk – whose net worth is around $223 billion – for his clumsy analogy of lords and peasants, and for employing the phrase “power to the people!”
Of course, Musk has plenty of supporters, who took to Twitter to endorse his plan.
musk itself doubled on the tuesday plantweeting: “To all the complainers, keep complaining, but it will cost $8.
Musk completed his $44 billion purchase of Twitter on Oct. 27 after six months of public and legal wrangling over the deal.
Shareholders were paid $54.20 per share and Twitter will now operate as a private company. The completion caps a convoluted saga that began in January with the billionaire’s quiet accumulation of a major stake in the company, his growing exasperation with the way it is run and a possible merger deal he then spent months trying to sort it out.
Since he took office, several senior company executives have been ousted, while others have resigned. This decision also led to several high profile figures leaving the platform.
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