Criticism of Elon Musk’s Twitter acquisition say any plan to charge users for identity verification could make the information on the site less reliable and more vulnerable to manipulation, devaluing the company.
The idea of a monthly fee for the blue checkmark of usernames was reported on Sunday by Casey Newton’s technology-focused newsletter platform game Currently notable users can receive verification for free as long as they meet a number of requirements.
Musk has not confirmed that a charge will be added, but on Sunday tweeted“The entire verification process is being renewed at the moment,” on his own verified account.
He gave the idea more oxygen the same day by responding to a survey from tech investor and friend Jason Calacanis, who asked how much users would be willing to pay for verification. More than 80% of those surveyed said they would not pay.
And earlier Tuesday, Musk responded to a post by author Stephen King, who threatened to opt out of service if you were charged a $20 monthly fee for your blue check. “If that is instituted, I will go like Enron,” King wrote.
“We have to pay the bills somehow! Twitter can’t rely entirely on advertisers,” Musk answered. “How about $8?”
Calacanis, who at one point was helping Musk raise money for the purchase and jokes in his Twitter bio that he’s the company’s director of memes, he has plot expanding verification will improve the site.
“Having many more people verified on Twitter, while weeding out bot armies, is the fastest path to making the platform safer and more useful for everyone,” he said. tweeted Monday.
“These aren’t the *only* ways to make Twitter more secure and usable, but they will have a quick and dramatic impact,” he added.
Jeff Jarvis, a prolific Twitter user who teaches at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and studies how information travels in the digital age, fears such a plan could backfire. He was part of a chorus of voices saying the idea was bad, both for users and for the company.
“Every sleazy joker, salesman, and propagandist will buy a blue check mark and thereby completely devalue the blue check mark. And Musk will no longer have anything to sell,” Jarvis told NBC News, referring to the possibility of the check becoming a pay-to-play option.
About a quarter of American adults use Twitter, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, and its influence is perhaps even greater: Conversation on the service forms the backdrop for the political and cultural debates that dominate the news cycle every day. Much of its value comes from its newsworthiness: the statements made by businesses, celebrities, elected officials, and the journalists who cover them. And that value largely depends on the verification system that the company has built.
James Ball, global editor of The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, also opposed the paid verification plan. In one piece On Monday for Britain’s New Statesman, he recalled being impersonated by a fraudulent Twitter account before being verified.
“Without a free way for notable accounts to confirm that they are real, it would be easier for fake accounts to pose as banks, government agencies, or notables to trick innocent users and spread fake news,” he wrote, adding that the absence of limited information and free verification, would turn Twitter into “a haven for hackers”.
Others said they would welcome the change.
“I think this is a good idea, and I would pay,” Scott Galloway tweetedNew York University marketing professor and active user of the site.
“I would if ALL the money went to charity”, musician John Michie tweeted.
Some said they would consider paying to use Twitter, but that it didn’t make sense to do so specifically for verification.
Marcus Hutchins, a British security researcher noted for the platform and said on the platform, “I would happily pay for Twitter,” but added: “If it’s about highlighting notable accounts, letting people buy undermines the point.”
Reportedly, there are at least 400,000 verified users on the platform. The company, which did not respond to a request for comment Monday, launched a $4.99 a month subscription service for certain benefits, but not for verification, in June 2021.
The possible verification plan was the latest news about Musk’s acquisition of Twitter to attract attention.
The spread of misinformation in the age of social media continues to reshape cultural and political dialogue, with many observers warning of the consequences if left unchecked.
Musk has fanned the flames himself, most recently by tweet then delete a link over the weekend to a well-known conspiracy website that posted an unsubstantiated claim about attack last week on Paul Pelosithe husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Questions remain about how a subscription verification plan would affect government officials and agencies, including election offices, that use the service to rapidly distribute critical information to the public.
Rep. Brad Sherman, a Democrat representing a district north of Los Angeles, said he did not believe he would pay a fee to maintain his verified status and that he felt such treatment could amount to a form of blackmailing public people. .
“He’s really saying I better get a blue check or I’m going to look like a con man,” he said. “This is not an attempt to recover costs. This is an attempt to turn fraud prevention into a profit center. Just because I overpaid for Twitter doesn’t mean I should overpay for verification.”
Some pointed out that Twitter’s verification system also serves as a self-protection measure for the company. Tony La Russa, then manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, sued the service in 2009, for example, after a user created a fake account under their name. The following month, Twitter launched a beta version of the verified account feature.
“The controls enhance the credibility and veracity of the experience in the Twitter ecosystem,” said Jarvis. “If Twitter is a miserable experience, people won’t use it and advertisers won’t want to be there.”
Musk recently tried to assure advertisers that Twitter would stick around a destination that attracts them.
It’s unclear how much charging verified users would serve the company’s bottom line.
Sarah T. Roberts, an information studies professor at UCLA and a former Twitter employee, said she didn’t think it would significantly help the company’s finances.
“It’s a really weird place to monetize,” he said. “It’s a bit blind to the value that certain high-profile users bring to Twitter. And it enriches the experience, and you’re going to ask them to pay for the privilege?”
While at Twitter, Roberts was part of a team that helped the company moderate health information. He left in early 2022, after less than a year. He said that he came to appreciate the research and work that had been done on the company’s systems and he said it was foolish to change things without studying them or to do so under the influence of outsiders who had little information about the company.
“Twitter has had a lot, a lot of people working on things like UI design and innovation, testing it out with user groups and people who specialize in working with VITs, very important Twitter users,” he said.
“That’s not to say the new leadership shouldn’t rethink some of them, but it’s a pretty weird way to go about it, asking random people on Twitter, who are your sycophantic fan base, about these complicated design and monetization plans.”
Roberts said he’s heard from many former colleagues still on Twitter who are distraught over the prospect of the company’s mission changing so rapidly and potentially randomly.
“By all accounts, it’s a nightmare,” he said. “Everyone is trying to get through.”
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