Blue Tick Bonfire: Twitter Scraps Verification for Musk’s Identity Paywall

Published on
21/04/2023 04:29 PM
Twitter Verification changes

Twitter has begun purging blue checkmarks from legacy verified accounts, with some of the world’s best-known figures and organisations losing verification overnight. 

Reuters, Bill Gates, Adele, and The Pope are among those losing their verified status, as well as thousands of celebrities and organisations from all over the world. 

The only blue ticks remaining on the social media site belong to those with a Twitter Blue Subscription, which costs up to £11 a month, or those affiliated with the site.

The checkmarks of a handful of public figures, including basketball player Lebron James, author Steven King and actor William Shatner, also remain – which Elon Musk admitted he paid for personally.

Unlike the original blue checkmarks, however, which helped users know which accounts were legitimate, the new system means Twitter will no longer verify the identity of users' accounts. 

Twitter previously had over 300,000 verified users under its legacy blue tick system, many of them journalists, musicians, politicians and public figures. 

CEO Elon Musk has remained heavily critical of this system since acquiring the social media platform last October, describing Twitter’s verification as a “lords and peasants” system in a tweet last year. 

Twitter Blue, he claims, will “give power to the people”. An update to the platform's iOS app, says Musk’s system is now live, with the blue checkmark listed among the perks of paying up the verification ransom. 

"Power to the people: Your account will get a blue checkmark, just like the celebrities, companies, and politicians you already follow," the update says.

As well as apparently democratising verification, Musk believes the changes will allow the social media platform to maintain a revenue stream to keep it profitable. 

He claimed it was losing upwards of $4 million a day when he acquired it last October and proceeded to lay off over 70 per cent of its workers to cut back spending. 

Guess Who?

By opening up verification to all users, Musk claims that Twitter Blue will be able to rid of Twitter’s bot accounts and reduce illegal activity across the platform. 

“If a paid Blue account engages in spam/scam, that account will be suspended. Essentially that raises the cost of crime on Twitter by several orders of magnitude,” Musk explained in a Tweet when the changes were first announced. 

But, while Twitter Blue introduced a variety of measures to protect users from bot and spam accounts, the removal of verification has been met with huge backlash by users, who fear the changes will encourage the spread of misinformation and fake news.

Others simply refuse to pay for verification. Prominent organisations including Human Rights Watch and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People explained they would not be paying for a blue checkmark.

“The new system will be “pay to play.” Those who haven’t coughed up the monthly fee will be at a disadvantage in Twitter’s algorithm, a Blog post by Human Rights Watch Reads. 

“This will be awful for those who can’t afford the new fees. It will damage the effectiveness of local activists, including human rights activists, who have long used Twitter for grassroots organising.”

With users refusing to pay to verify their accounts, a wave of profiles imitating public figures and well-known organisations has emerged across Twitter. 

For instance, one user posing as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos declared the billionaire was “officially shutting down Amazon, tricking thousands of people on the platform, while another disguised as Nintendo's official  American account posted a picture of Super Mario making a rude gesture.

One user even tricked users into thinking they were Elon Musk, advertising a false “Twitter Gold” that would allow users to have “nightly dinners” with the billionaire. 

Many of these accounts have remained active on the platform for hours before eventually being blocked by Twitter’s moderation team, which sits at its lowest number in years. 

Musk was forced to cut Twitter’s forced to cut moderation team as part of his cost-saving layoffs upon acquiring the platform. Experts warn that this reduction in moderation is leading to a surge in hate speech across the platform. 

Research  Network Contagious Research Institute (NCRI) found that the use of the N-word increased 500% just 12 hours after Elon’s takeover, whilst anti-semitic rhetoric has reached a rate of 5000 times per hour following Elon’s announcement of his new verification system. 

Advertisers fly away 

As the legacy blue checkmark becomes a memory of Twitter’s past, advertisers are leaving Twitter en masse due to fear of what future Musk’s changes to the platform might bring. 

Microsft announced yesterday that it would drop the social media platform from its Microsft Advertising Company, joining several other B2B platforms in doing so. 

"Starting on April 25, 2023, Smart Campaigns with Multi-platform will no longer support Twitter," Microsoft said

A similar email has begun to go out to Microsoft Advertising users stating that "Digital Marketing Center (DMC) will no longer support Twitter starting on April 25, 2023."

From that date, users will no longer be able to access their Twitter account through its Digital Marketing Center's social media management tool, according to Microsoft.

It comes just one day after Twitter owner Elon Musk appeared at a major marketing and advertising conference in an attempt to lure brands back to the platform after Twitter lost half of its biggest advertisers following his takeover of the company.

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