Twitter users will soon be able to purchase a blue “just like celebrities” tick for $ 8 a month

Twitter announced a subscription service for US $ 7.99 per month that includes a blue check mark now only given to verified accounts as new owner Elon Musk works to overhaul the platform’s verification system just before the midterm election in the United States.

In an update for Apple iOS devices available in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK, Twitter said users who “subscribe now” can receive the blue check mark next to their names “just like celebrities. , companies and politicians that you already follow. ”

But Twitter employee Esther Crawford tweeted on Saturday that “the new Blue is not yet available – the sprint for our launch continues, but some people may see us making updates as we are testing and pushing changes in real time.” So far, verified accounts didn’t seem to be losing their checks.

It wasn’t immediately clear when the subscription would go live, and Crawford didn’t immediately respond to a message to clarify the timing. Twitter also did not immediately respond to a comment message.

There are fears that anyone who gets the blue check could create confusion and increase misinformation ahead of Tuesday’s election, but Musk tweeted Saturday in response to a question about the risk of impostors impersonating verified people, such as politicians and election officials – who “Twitter will suspend the account attempting the impersonation and will keep the money!”

“So if the scammers want to do it a million times, it’s just a lot of free money,” he said.

But many fear that the widespread layoffs that began Friday could gut the moderation and content verification guardrails on the social platform that public agencies, election councils, police departments, and news organizations use to keep people reliably informed.

The change represents the end of Twitter’s current verification system, which was launched in 2009 to prevent the portrayal of high-profile accounts such as celebrities and politicians. Prior to the review, Twitter had approximately 423,000 verified accounts, many of them grassroots reporters from around the world that the company verified regardless of how many followers it had.

Experts raised serious concerns about the overturning of the platform’s verification system which, while not perfect, helped Twitter’s 238 million daily users determine if the accounts they were receiving information from were genuine. Verified bank accounts include celebrities, athletes, influencers and other high-profile public figures, along with government and political agencies from around the world, journalists and news organizations, activists, companies and brands, and Musk himself.

“He knows the blue check has value and is looking to exploit it quickly,” said Jennifer Grygiel, an associate professor of communications at Syracuse University and a social media expert. “He needs to earn people’s trust before he can sell them anything. Why would you buy a car from a salesman you know has been basically chaotic?”

People walk outside the Twitter headquarters in San Francisco on Friday. (Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)

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 previously said he wanted to “verify all humans” on Twitter, said public figures would be identified in ways other than the blue tick. Currently, for example, government officials are identified with text underneath names claiming they are posting from an official government account.

President Joe Biden’s @POTUS account, for example, says in gray letters that it belongs to a “United States government official.”

Massive layoffs of staff

The change comes the day after the company began firing workers to cut costs and as more companies are shutting down Twitter advertising as a prudent corporate world waits to see how it will operate under its new owner.

About half of the company’s 7,500 employees have been fired, tweeted Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of security and integrity.

He said the company’s frontline content moderation staff was the group least affected by the job cuts and that “efforts for electoral integrity, including harmful disinformation that can suppress voting and fight state-backed intelligence operations remain a top priority. “

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey took the blame for the widespread job loss on Saturday. He has had two nominations as Twitter CEO, with the latest running from 2015 to 2021.

“I have a responsibility for why everyone is in this situation: I have grown the size of the company too quickly,” he tweeted. “I apologize for this.”

Musk tweeted on Friday that there was no choice but to cut jobs “when the company is losing over $ 4 million a day.” He did not give details of the daily losses at the company and said that employees who lost their jobs were offered three months’ pay as severance pay.

Meanwhile, Twitter has already seen “a huge drop in revenue” due to pressure from activist groups on advertisers to leave the platform, Musk tweeted on Friday. This hits Twitter hard due to its heavy reliance on advertising to make money. During the first six months of this year, nearly $ 92 out of every $ 100 cashed came from advertising.

United Airlines became the latest major brand to stop advertising on Twitter. The Chicago-based company confirmed Saturday that it had made the move, but declined to discuss the reasons or what it would have to see to resume advertising on the platform.

WATCH | Musk begins cutting Twitter’s global workforce:

Elon Musk begins a plan to cut half of Twitter’s global workforce

Newly elected Twitter CEO Elon Musk began pushing forward his plan to cut up to half of the company’s global workforce, starting with widespread layoffs at the social media firm on Friday.

He has joined the growing list of large companies that pause ads on Twitter, including General Motors, REI, General Mills, and Audi.

Musk tried to reassure advertisers last week that Twitter would not become a “free hell landscape for all” because of what he calls his commitment to free speech.

But doubts remain that a lighter touch on content moderation on Twitter will lead users to send more offensive tweets. This could damage companies’ brands if their ads are displayed next to them.

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