wall street journal
In 2009, after Twitter was sued by the then-St. To impersonate Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa on stage, the young company introduced a new feature: a blue and white check mark.
The check indicated that Twitter had verified the accounts of artists, athletes, government officials and agencies, and other public figures. option, which kicked with The plan to verify, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was presented as a safeguard for individuals whose accounts are at risk of being fraudulently copied and as a benefit to all users — a way to let people know. The means that they can rely on the information being shared by prominent personalities.
It soon became one of the platform’s signature features, copied by rivals such as Facebook, and created a new type of cultural cachet for those who received it. Now Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, wants to change the way verification works, with the potential to change not only who receives a coveted blue check mark, but also for users to spot counterfeit and fraudulent activity on the platform. Also creates new headaches to find.
Musk confirmed this week that he is working to launch an updated version of the company’s Twitter Blue subscription service in which any user can pay $8 per month to be or remain verified. The world’s richest man has also used populist language, hailing the move as “a way to break Twitter’s current lords and farmers system, whether or not it has a blue checkmark.”
If users buy, the plan could be a new revenue driver for Twitter, something Musk needs after his $44 billion acquisition of the company, which was partially funded with debt. He also suggests that verifying more real, human users could help address the spread of fake and spam accounts, which he has been concerned about during his months-long effort to pull out of the takeover deal. had claimed.
The logic seems to go something like this: By requiring users to pay for verification using a bank account or credit card, this would create a higher barrier to entry for unauthorized accounts. Musk said in a tweet on Wednesday that if verified accounts under his new system “engage in spam/scam/impersonation, they will be suspended, but Twitter will keep their money!” And he said he would create a separate tag that would appear under the names of public figures, just like Twitter already identifies government officials and representatives of state media organizations.
But the move could discourage some major accounts from being verified, making it harder for users to determine which ones are authentic. And it is not clear whether it will also prevent inauthentic and bot activity.
Samuel Woolley said, “Indeed, it’s making Twitter a pay-for-play system, and we know that campaigners, people working through Twitter to spread propaganda and other forms of manipulation, are very willing and able to finance their operations.” , assistant professor at the University of Texas School of Information and author of the book “Bots”.
“Most of the campaigners that social media companies are most concerned about, like the Russian government, the Chinese government, extremist groups, have a lot of resources,” he said.
Currently, Woolley said, in order to bypass the Twitter verification requirement that users link their cell phone numbers to their accounts, bad actors will “buy thousands of smartphones and put them on racks … and that’s an $8 verification fee.” The effort is far more expensive than it pays to.” In theory, a person could even pay to verify an account and then allow a computer to run it, thus effectively creating an automated (or “bot”) verified account.
There may be other complicating factors. Users may have concerns about handing over their bank or credit card information to a company that reportedly has major security vulnerabilities, according to a company whistleblower complaint dated a few months ago. People in many parts of the world do not have easy access to banking services. And many regular Twitter users who aren’t concerned about being impersonated and don’t care about the “pressure” of Twitter may not care to shell out for a blue check either.
It is also unclear who would prevent a person from fraudulently creating an account impersonating another person and making payments, thus undermining the original purpose of the feature. It’s not hard to imagine someone paying to verify themselves as a customer support agent for a particular company and then using that credibility to trick customers who come in with a blue check mark. comes for.
Twitter did not immediately respond to questions about the plan, including how it would prevent such copying.
Musk has said that his goal in buying Twitter is to bolster “free speech,” but some worry the new subscription option could create a two-tiered speech system based on who can pay and Who can’t With the new plan, for example, customers will get priority in answers, mentions and searches, as well as the ability to post lengthy video and audio content while receiving more than half as many ads as free users, according to Musk.
“You’re really saying that the free speech of people who pay is more important than the free speech of people who can’t,” said Jessica Gonzalez, co-CEO of Media Accountability Free Press. Society leaders met with Musk earlier this week to discuss content moderation and recent hate rhetoric on the platform. “I actually told him … that I think $8 a month is overly problematic.”
The proposed membership update has been panned by several high-profile Twitter users, including author Stephen King and representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. “Lamao as a billionaire is trying to sell people on the idea that ‘free speech’ is actually an $8/mo subscription plan,” Ocasio Cortez said in a tweet on Wednesday.
Musk hit back at critics of the plan on Wednesday, saying in a tweet: “To all complainers, please keep complaining, but it will cost $8.”
—CNN’s Jennifer Korn contributed to this report.