Twitter users can soon get a blue check for a $7.99 monthly fee

Twitter users can soon get a blue check for a $7.99 monthly fee

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Twitter has announced a $7.99-a-month subscription service that includes a blue check now only given to verified accounts as new owner Elon Musk works to overhaul the platform’s verification system just before US midterm elections.

In an update for Apple iOS devices available in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK, Twitter said users who “sign up now” for the new “Twitter Blue with verification” can get a blue tick next to their names “just like the celebrities, companies and politicians you already follow.”

But Twitter employee Esther Crawford tweeted Saturday that “the new Blue isn’t live yet — the sprint to our launch continues, but some people may see us making updates as we test and push changes in real time.” Verified accounts don’t seem to have lost checks so far.

It was not immediately clear when the subscription would be announced, and Crawford did not immediately return a message to clarify the timing. Twitter also did not immediately respond to a message for comment.

Anyone able to get a blue check could lead to confusion and a surge in misinformation ahead of Tuesday’s election, but Musk tweeted Saturday in response to a question about the risk of fraudsters impersonating verified profiles — like politicians and election officials – that “Twitter will suspend account for attempted impersonation and keep money!”

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

But many are afraid widespread layoffs that began Friday could destroy the safety nets of content moderation and verification on the social platform that public agencies, election boards, police departments and news outlets use to reliably inform people.

The change will complete Twitter’s current verification system, which was launched in 2009 to prevent the impersonation of high-profile accounts such as celebrities and politicians. Twitter now has about 423,000 verified accounts, many of which are ordinary journalists from around the world who have been verified by the company regardless of how many followers they have.

Experts raised serious concerns about breaching the platform’s verification system that, while not perfect, helped Twitter’s 238 million daily users determine whether the accounts they get information from are authentic. Current verified accounts include celebrities, athletes and influencers, along with government agencies and politicians around the world, journalists and news outlets, activists, companies and brands, and Musk himself.

“He knows the blue check has value and he’s trying to use it quickly,” said Jennifer Grygiel, an associate professor of communications at Syracuse University and a social media expert. “You need to gain people’s trust before you can sell them anything. Why would you buy a car from a dealer that you know has basically turned out to be a mess?”

The update Twitter made to the iOS version of its app doesn’t mention verification as part of the new blue check system. For now, the update is not available on Android devices.

Musk, who has previously said he wants to “verify all people” on Twitter, said public figures will be identified in ways other than a blue tick. Currently, for example, government officials identify themselves with text under their names stating that they are publishing from an official government account.

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

The announcement comes a day after Twitter began laying off workers to cut costs and more companies pause advertising on the platform because the wary corporate world is waiting to see how it will do under the new owner.

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

He said the company’s front-line content moderation staff was the group least affected by the job cuts and that “election integrity efforts — including harmful disinformation that can suppress voting and combating state-backed information operations — remain a top priority.” .

Twitter co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey took the blame for job loss.

“I own responsibility for why everyone is in this situation: I grew the size of the company too fast,” he tweeted on Saturday. “I apologize for that.”

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

He also said Twitter has already seen a “massive drop in revenue” as advertisers face pressure from activists to leave the platform, which relies heavily on advertising to make money.

United Airlines on Saturday became the latest major brand to pause advertising on Twitter, joining companies including General Motors, REI, General Mills and Audi.

Musk tried to reassure advertisers last week, saying Twitter wouldn’t become a “free-for-all hell” because of what he calls his commitment to free speech.

But concerns remain about whether a lighter touch on content moderation on Twitter will result in more offensive tweets being sent. This could harm companies’ brands if their ads appear next to them.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk on Saturday called on Musk to “ensure that human rights are central to the governance of Twitter.” In an open letter, Türk said reports that the company’s entire human rights team and much of its ethical AI team had been fired were not an “encouraging start.”

“Like all companies, Twitter must understand the harms associated with its platform and take steps to address them,” Türk said. “Respecting our common human rights should set a fence for the use and evolution of the platform.”

Meanwhile, Twitter can’t simply cut costs to boost profits, and Musk has to find ways to raise more revenue, said Dan Ives, Wedbush analyst. But that may be easier said than done with the new Blue Check subscription program.

“Users got this for free,” Ives said. “There might be a big pushback.”

He expects 20% to 25% of verified Twitter users to sign up initially. The stakes are high for Musk and Twitter to get this right early and keep the apps running smoothly, he added.

“You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression,” Ives said. “The first week was a disaster for Musk who owns the Twitter platform. You have now reduced 50% (of the workforce). There are questions just about the stability of the platform, and advertisers are keeping a close eye on that.”


AP business writer Stan Choe contributed from New York.

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