Elon Musk to charge verified Twitter users to give ‘power to the people’

2 Nov 2022

Elon Musk at an Allen & Company Conference in July 2015. Image: Thomas Hawk (CC BY-NC 2.0)

High-profile users have been critical of Musk’s subscription plans, while major ad firms are advising brands to pause spending on the platform.

Elon Musk has proposed plans to charge a monthly subscription for users to have a ‘verified’ blue tick on Twitter.

The new owner of Twitter said a blue tick will cost $8 a month, with the price adjusted by country. A blue tick mark next to a username is currently free, but is typically reserved for high-profile figures and users who have been verified as trustworthy sources.

In a series of tweets yesterday (1 November), Musk said the new subscription model will give “power to the people” and called the current way of verifying users a “lords and peasants system”.

The billionaire said the new subscription will also give blue tick users “priority in replies, mentions and search”, which he claimed would help reduce spam on the platform. These users will also get half as many ads and the ability to post long video and audio content, he added.

A number of high-profile Twitter users have spoken out against Musk’s plans to charge for the blue tick. The billionaire previously hinted that the monthly subscription could be $20 a month.

Author Stephen King tweeted that he would leave the platform if he was charged this much to keep the verified status. Musk responded with the lower $8 subscription option and said “Twitter cannot rely entirely on advertisers”.

It is unclear when this subscription model could begin and if it would be a replacement for Twitter Blue, which lets users pay for features such as the ability to undo tweets, bookmark and save tweets, and customise their display.

Concern among execs and advertisers

The recent decisions by Musk in his new ownership position have caused some backlash. Twitter’s chief customer officer, Sarah Personette, said she resigned last week.

A number of other top executives have announced their departure from Twitter in recent days, including chief people and diversity officer Dalana Brand and general manager for core technologies Nick Caldwell.

The takeover has also impacted Twitter’s advertising market, as two ad companies have advised their clients to temporarily pause advertising on the platform, the Wall Street Journal reports.

In an email to clients seen by the publication, Interpublic Group said Twitter’s current situation is “unpredictable and chaotic” and it cannot be sure that the platform is a “safe place for brands”.

The email also noted a rise in inappropriate behaviour on Twitter. In the immediate aftermath of the deal’s completion, the Network Contagion Research Institute found that use of the N-word on Twitter had increased nearly 500pc in the space of 12 hours.

Phishing email warning

Cybercriminals are also trying to take advantage of the recent upheaval. A phishing email has been circulating, urging users to submit personal information to keep their Twitter verification tick mark for free.

John Stevenson, product director of internet security firm Cyren, said these phishing emails are a “perfect example” of threat actors exploiting current events and panic to increase their chances of scamming victims.

“Every single successfully targeted victim then faces follow-up phishing scams abusing their exposed personal identifiable information in the pursuit of more valuable credentials,” Stevenson added.

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Elon Musk at an Allen & Company Conference in July 2015. Image: Thomas Hawk via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic