Twitter users will soon be able to get a blue check for $7.99 monthly fee | national news

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

In an update to Apple iOS devices available in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, Twitter said users who “sign up now” for the new “Twitter Blue with verification” can receive the blue checkmark next to their name” just like the celebrities, businesses and politicians you already follow.

But Twitter employee Esther Crawford tweeted on Saturday that “the new Blue is not live yet – the sprint towards our launch continues, but some people may see us making updates as we test and push real-time changes. Verified accounts didn’t seem to lose their checks so far.

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

Anyone who can get the blue check could sow confusion and mounting misinformation ahead of Tuesday’s election, but Musk tweeted on Saturday in response to a question about the risk of imposters impersonating verified profiles – such as politicians and election officials – that “Twitter will suspend the account attempting to impersonate and keep the money!”

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

But many fear widespread layoffs that began on Friday could remove the moderation and content verification safeguards on the social platform that public bodies, election commissions, police departments and the media use to keep people reliably informed.

The change will end Twitter’s current verification system, which was launched in 2009 to prevent impersonation of high-profile accounts such as celebrities and politicians. Twitter now has about 423,000 verified accounts, many of them grassroots journalists from around the world that the company has verified, regardless of how many followers they had.

Experts have raised serious concerns about changing the platform’s verification system which, while not perfect, has helped Twitter’s 238 million daily users determine whether the accounts they get information from are genuine. Current verified accounts include celebrities, athletes and influencers, as well as government agencies and politicians around the world, journalists and news outlets, activists, businesses and brands, and Musk himself.

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

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

Musk, who previously said he wanted to “verify all humans” on Twitter, hinted that public figures would be identified by means other than the blue check mark. Currently, for example, government officials are identified with text under the names indicating that they are posting from an official government account.

President Joe Biden’s @POTUS account, for example, states in gray letters that it is owned by a “United States government official.”

The announcement comes a day after Twitter began laying off workers to cut costs and as more companies suspend advertising on the platform as a cautious business community waits to see how it will perform under its new owner.

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

He said the company’s frontline content moderation staff were the group least affected by the job cuts and that “election integrity efforts – including harmful misinformation that can suppress the vote and the fight against state-sponsored information operations – remain a top priority”.

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

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

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

He also said Twitter has already seen “a massive drop in revenue” as advertisers come under 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 suspend 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 hellscape” because of what he calls his commitment to freedom of expression.

But concerns remain over whether a lighter touch on content moderation on Twitter will result in users sending out more offensive tweets. It could harm companies’ brands if their ads appear next to them.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, on Saturday urged Musk to “ensure that human rights are at the heart of the management of Twitter”. In an open letter, Türk said reports that the company’s entire human rights team and much of the AI ​​ethics team were fired were “not a start. encouraging”.

“Like all businesses, Twitter needs to understand the harms associated with its platform and take steps to address them,” Türk said. “Respect for our shared human rights should define the safeguards for the use and evolution of the platform.”

Meanwhile, Twitter can’t just cut costs to boost profits, and Musk needs to find ways to generate more revenue, said Wedbush analyst Dan Ives. But that may be easier said than done with the new blue check subscription program.

“Users got it for free,” Ives said. “There may be a massive pushback.”

He expects 20-25% of verified Twitter users to sign up initially. The stakes are high for Musk and Twitter to succeed early and signups to work properly, he added.

“You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression,” Ives said. “The first week was a train wreck for Musk, owner of the Twitter platform. Now you have reduced by 50% (of labor). There are questions about the stability of the platform, and advertisers are watching this with a keen eye. »

AP Business Writer Stan Choe contributed from New York.

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