March 20, 2023

Twitter users will soon be able to buy a blue checkmark “like celebrities” for $8 a month | CBC News

Twitter has announced a $7.99-a-month subscription service that includes a blue check that will now only be issued to verified accounts as new owner Elon Musk works to overhaul the platform’s verification system just before the 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” can get a blue checkmark next to their name “like celebrities, businesses and politicians already following.”

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

It was not immediately clear when the order would take effect, and Crawford did not immediately return a message seeking clarification on the timing. Twitter also did not immediately respond to a comment message.

There are fears that anyone who can get a blue check could lead to confusion and more disinformation ahead of Tuesday’s election, but Musk tweeted on Saturday about the risk of scammers impersonating established figures such as politicians and election officials. – that “Twitter will freeze the account trying 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 the sweeping layoffs that began Friday could topple the guardrails of content moderation and verification on the social platform used by public agencies, election boards, police departments and news outlets to reliably keep people informed.

The change marks the end of Twitter’s current verification system, which was launched in 2009 to prevent impersonations of high-profile accounts such as celebrities and politicians. Before the overhaul, Twitter had about 423,000 verified accounts, many of them journalists from around the world, who were verified by the company regardless of how many followers they had.

Experts have expressed serious concerns about reforming the platform’s verification system. While not perfect, it has helped Twitter’s 238 million daily users determine if the accounts they were getting information from were genuine. Current verified accounts include celebrities, athletes, influencers and other high-profile public figures, government agencies and politicians around the world, journalists and news agencies, activists, companies and brands, and Musk himself.

“He knows there’s value in the blue check, and he’s trying to take advantage of it quickly,” said Jennifer Grygiel, an assistant professor of communication 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 who you know has basically turned out to be a mess?”

People walk outside Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco on Friday. (Jeff Chiu/Associated Press)

An update to the iOS version of Twitter’s app doesn’t mention verification as part of the new “blue verification” system. The update is currently not available for Android devices.

Musk, who had previously said he wanted to “verify all people” on Twitter, has floated ways to identify public figures other than a blue check. Currently, for example, government officials are identified by a text below their names that indicates that they are sending messages from an official government account.

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

Large staff layoffs

The move comes a day after the company began laying off workers to cut costs and as more companies suspend advertising on Twitter as the wary corporate world waits to see how it will fare under its new owner.

About half of the company’s 7,500 employees were laid off, Twitter’s security and integrity manager Yoel Roth tweeted.

He said the company’s frontline content monitoring staff were the group least affected by the job cuts, and that “efforts to ensure election integrity — including harmful misinformation that can suppress polls and counter state-sponsored outreach — remain a priority.”

On Saturday, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey took the blame for such widespread job losses. He was CEO of Twitter twice, the most recent of which spanned from 2015 to 2021.

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

Musk tweeted late Friday that there was no choice but to cut jobs “while the company is losing over $4 million a day.” He did not give details of the daily losses at the company and said that the workers who lost their jobs were offered three months’ salary as severance pay.

Meanwhile, Twitter has already seen a “massive drop in revenue” as activist groups pressured advertisers to leave the platform, Musk tweeted on Friday. This hits Twitter hard because it relies heavily on advertising to make money. In the first six months of this year, nearly $92 of every $100 in revenue came from advertising.

United Airlines became the latest major brand to suspend advertising on Twitter. The Chicago-based company confirmed on Saturday that it had made the change, but declined to discuss the reasons for it or what it would need to see to continue advertising on the platform.

SEE | Musk begins cutting Twitter’s global workforce:

Elon Musk begins plan to cut Twitter’s global workforce in half

Newly ousted Twitter CEO Elon Musk has begun moving forward with his plan to cut up to half of the company’s global workforce, starting with widespread layoffs at the social media company on Friday.

It joined a growing number of major companies suspending ads on Twitter, including General Motors, REI, General Mills and Audi.

Musk tried to reassure advertisers last week by saying Twitter would not become a “free-for-all hell” because of what he calls its commitment to free speech.

But there are still concerns about whether a lighter touch on Twitter’s content moderation will lead to users posting more offensive tweets. This can damage companies’ brands if their ads appear next to them.

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