Less than a week after Elon Musk finally gave in and paid a heavy price for Twitter, his attempts to remake the platform are already turning into an utterly predictable clown show. Watching him begin to reshape content moderation and launch a poorly thought out monetization program would be fun if their potential effects weren’t so dire, with consequences for Twitter employees and users, and potentially society at large.
Originally reported Sunday by The Verge, a plan to charge verified users to get or keep their blue checks was set to cost $20 per month. But after widespread backlash on the platform and a survey tweeted by Musk ally Jason Calacanis, in which nearly 82% of users responded that they wouldn’t pay anything for verification, those plans appear to have changed.
Twitter will change under Musk’s absolute rule, but it doesn’t look like it’s for the better.
On Tuesday afternoon, Musk had published a wire on the platform outlining its plan to charge $8 a month instead — part of a revamp of Twitter’s existing Blue service.
In addition to the coveted blue tick, Twitter Blue followers will be able to post longer video and audio clips. They’ll also have half the ads in their feeds and be able to bypass paywalls for news publishers “eager to work” with the platform, and their tweets will get priority in replies, mentions and search results. research.
It is not surprising that such a plan can have a number of disadvantages.
Paying for verification won’t be a problem for celebrities, major influencers, and big businesses looking to maintain their authentic status on Twitter, but it might be less acceptable for some journalists and others who benefit from a blue check but who don’t have the budget. for verification as a service, especially if their employers don’t take note.
Currently, Twitter’s verification system is free and is designed to ensure that users can identify legitimate accounts and know that they are trustworthy. Users must meet a number of conditions depending on the category to which they belong to be verified. The blue tick makes it harder to impersonate verified users and provides them with additional tools to manage their notifications, as many have many followers.
Additionally, the new service could open up verification to scammers who want nothing more than to gain a mark of credibility that they can then use to lure more people into their wallet dump schemes. Cryptocurrency scams are ubiquitous on Twitter and common in replies to Musk’s tweets, where accounts frequently attempt to impersonate him to dupe his followers. Verified accounts are even hacked and their images and display names are changed to mimic those of reliable numbers in the hope users won’t notice bad usernames before falling into scams. Paid verification could make this problem worse.
In his Twitter thread announcing the $8 subscription plan, Musk claimed that prioritizing tweets from paying users “is critical to beating spam/scam,” and in a response to Bitcoin whale Michael Saylor, he said, “If a paid Blue account engages in spam/scams, that account will be suspended.” Sounds good in theory; the problem is to make it work in practice. Twitter is currently pretty bad at responding quickly to scammers and spammers. The Washington Post reported that Musk plans to lay off a quarter of the company’s staff to begin with, which could further reduce the ability to police these infractions.
But there are even bigger concerns here too.
Many liberal and left-wing users may be less inclined to subscribe – passing on the promised visibility benefits – given their growing dislike of the belligerent billionaire. At the same time, his diehard fans and the far-right supporters he attracts by embracing a biased notion of “free speech” may flock to the new service. This would result in posts favorable to Musk and the growing reactionary right would gain higher placement on the platform, which is particularly concerning given that Twitter has already admitted that its algorithm is skewed in favor of right-wing accounts.
This is just a likely unintended consequence of how paid priority will play out. If history is any indication of what might follow (and that’s usually a good thing), there will also be coordinated campaigns to flood search results with conspiracy theories and engage in election interference. Yet the company’s new management doesn’t seem ready to handle them, especially with new limits on the number of employees who can access moderation tools, including those to tackle misinformation ahead of the mid-elections. mandate.
Trust has already been sorely tested on this front. Just days after taking office, Musk tweeted an article from a known fake news source outlining a homophobic conspiracy theory about Paul Pelosi after he was assaulted. When Musk finally deleted the tweet, he didn’t apologize. Instead, he tweeted a screenshot of a New York Times article saying he had shared “fake news” with the comment “That’s fake – I *didn’t* tweet a link to The New York Times!” The comment referred to the publication’s common right-wing characterizations as “fake news”.
Musk has long expressed opposition to the content policies of former Twitter executives. This is exactly what supporters of his takeover expect of him. Bloomberg News, citing sources believed to be familiar with the matter, reported that Musk wants to change the misinformation policy that applies to posts about sensitive topics like the election and Covid-19, and he is reviewing the hateful content policy with particular emphasis on a section that limits “targeted gender errors or dead names of transgender people.” It’s an especially notable move, given that Musk’s transgender daughter changed her last name this year, expressing a desire to no longer be “related to my biological father in any way.”
These reported changes will cost him dearly. Major advertisers are already suspending ad spending on Twitter over concerns about Musk’s approach to content moderation, and Sarah Personette, the chief client officer who handled most advertiser relations, announced tuesday that she had resigned. If the experiences of right-wing alternatives like Truth Social and Parler have shown us anything, it’s that most advertisers don’t like having their brands associated with hate speech.
Twitter will change under Musk’s absolute rule, but it doesn’t look like it’s for the better. Driven by skewed alt-right ideas to reshape the platform and with pressure to quickly monetize users into paying skyrocketing annual interest payments, even his hype machine may not be enough to save the day. platform for its mismanagement. But at least some users might stick around to experience the train wreck for themselves.