It has been almost a week since Elon Musk has taken over Twitter, and he has already started to revamp the platform. According to The Verge, the new CEO of Twitter has plans to charge users $20 per month for a blue check that indicates verified on a Twitter account.
This new feature would be a part of Twitter Blue, which is the existing subscription feature launched last year. Musk has not been very subtle about his disregard for the monthly $4.99 product, which, according to him, is not very appealing to anyone beyond power users. Currently, subscribing to Twitter Blue gets users early access to features like the edit button and the feature to change the design of the app icon for Twitter on their phones. You can also get ad-free access to specific news sources and a feed of the most talked-about articles from the people you follow.
Elon Musk and venture capitalists Jason Calacanis — who changed his Twitter bio to ‘Chief Meme Officer at Twitter’ — have been hinting at paid user verification since April. As per the leaked texts, Calacanis laid out a five-part plan for Elon Musk that includes the concept of a membership team, which will remove bots while making users pay for actual name membership. Calacanis also complained that no one is setting priorities at Twitter and that 12,000 people work on whatever they like.
Musk’s desire to “authenticate all humans” has been part of his plan since his initial takeover bid. Even if we keep the potential security flaws aside, this plan still ignores the fundamental difference between verification of someone’s identity and giving anyone a blue check to convey that they are who they are saying they are.
“Why should the blue check marks be limited to the celebrities, elite, and press? How is that democratic?” Calacanis texted Musk. Musk and his companions see this plan as a way to give money to Twitter. But by monetizing the blue tick symbol that currently has some value, they will ultimately remove all of that current value. Here’s how.
Blue checks on social platforms are a means of combating misinformation. Today, if someone makes a fake account pretending to be a celebrity, world leader, and journalist, it’s easy to tell it’s fake if the account does not have a blue check. But under this newly proposed system, there is not much incentive to pay $20 per month to remain verified, especially when the once-coveted symbol will be available to anyone willing to pay. It is possible that bad actors posing as journalists to spread fake information would be more inclined to pay the $20 than actual journalists.
Musk, however, doesn’t seem to care very much about misinformation’s dangers. According to the sources, just this weekend, Musk tweeted and later deleted a fake conspiracy theory about the attack on the husband of the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.
One alternative for this feature could be to charge only corporations like Netflix or Steak-umm (which have a significant Twitter presence) to be verified. Corporate clients are more willing than a local nonprofit newsroom to pay $20 monthly per account to prove their legitimacy. Yet this still does not solve the misinformation issue. If anything, it only pressures companies into buying a product they’ve gotten free for years to prevent a possible PR problem.
For now, it does not seem like Twitter users are very enthusiastic about this plan that Musk has concocted. Recently, Calacanis posted a poll asking how much people would pay to be verified, and at the time of publication, about 81.6% of more than a million respondents said they would not pay. However, considering the recent developments, Musk might devise a different verification tactic altogether. Hopefully, that plan is a bit more thought-through than this one.