Twitter’s new chief executive, Elon Musk, has revised his plans to charge verified users to keep their “blue tick” status, reducing the fee from $19.99 to $8 per month.
In a series of tweets, Musk decried “Twitter’s current lords & peasants system for who has or doesn’t have a blue checkmark” as “bullshit” adding: “Power to the people! Blue for $8/month.”
Twitter’s former method of verifying users for a blue tick included a short online application form, and “was reserved for those whose identities were targets for impersonation, such as celebrities, politicians and journalists”, said the BBC.
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Now anyone will be able to pay for their verified status, and Musk explained that those subscribers would get priority in replies, mentions and search on the platform, as well as the ability to post longer video and audio content while getting half as many ads as free users. “This will also give Twitter a revenue stream to reward content creators,” he added.
According to internal correspondence seen by tech website The Verge, “verified users would have 90 days to subscribe or lose their blue checkmark”. The decision, along with Musk’s takeover of Twitter in general, has courted controversy, with users fearing the potential for political extremism.
Subscription fee haggling
Musk completed the $44bn (£37.9bn) takeover of the site on Friday. In the “months of legal wrangling” leading up to the acquisition, he “repeatedly expressed concerns about the verification process” as well as “the number of spam and bot accounts he believes litter the site”, said the BBC.
The leaked internal documents had suggested users would have to pay $19.99 per month but Musk seemed to be persuaded by a bizarre exchange with author Stephen King, where the richest man in the world seemed happy to “haggle” with the writer over subscription prices, said the Daily Mail.
“$20 a month to keep my blue check? F*** that, they should pay me,” King tweeted to his 6.9m followers. “If that gets instituted, I’m gone like Enron.” Musk replied: “We need to pay the bills somehow! Twitter cannot rely entirely on advertisers. How about $8?”
But Nu Wexler, former Twitter Head of Global Policy Communications, told the BBC that introducing a fee for blue ticks could make it “harder to sift through disinformation and find high-quality information”.
In charging journalists to provide news, Musk “doesn’t realise that he needs journalists and other authoritative sources of information to be verified more than we need the blue tick”, agreed Quartz’s Scott Nover. “Without us, the free news engine” of Twitter will become “the very opposite of the free-debate, town-square utopia that Musk claims to desire”.
The proposed subscription fee is just one of the many changes Musk has made since becoming CEO, including dissolving Twitter’s board of directors and making sweeping job cuts, with some 25% of Twitter’s workforce at risk of being made redundant in the first round of cuts, according to reporting from The Washington Post.
Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter is also likely to add to the “growing misery” of the Democrats as they head into the midterm elections, thanks to rumours that Musk could allow former Republican president Donald Trump to return to the site, wrote Joshua Green for Bloomberg. According to a Twitter source, Musk “intends to do away with permanent bans on users because he doesn’t believe in lifelong prohibitions.”
“If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me if Trump is coming back on this platform, Twitter would be minting money!”, Musk tweeted on Monday.
Indeed, Musk’s “professed admiration for free speech is being celebrated on the right, whose denizens complain that controls over the spread of misinformation online are an affront to their liberties,” said The Economist, and “this is having a big impact on who uses Twitter,” said the newspaper, which has gathered data that appeared to show “Twitter’s centre of gravity shifting to the right”, with a surge in right-leaning users joining the site, while some left-leaning users seem to be leaving.
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