Updated: Twitter rolls back on new ‘Official’ label within hours

9 Nov 2022

Image: © Tada Images/Stock.adobe.com

Having waited until after the US midterm elections, Twitter is now planning some big changes for its subscription service.

Shortly after introducing a new ‘Official’ label to select accounts, the new Twitter feature has disappeared from several accounts after the company’s new leader tweeted: “I just killed it.”

After taking over Twitter, Elon Musk announced plans to shake up the platform’s blue tick system and charge users $8 a month to gain this verified status.

Following on from this, the new label was intended to distinguish them from regular subscribers to the Twitter Blue service.

While many high-profile brands and media outlets carried the label for several hours, including The New York Times, Associated Press and RTÉ, the label has since disappeared from these profiles following Musk’s tweet.

Esther Crawford, head of early-stage products at Twitter, tweeted yesterday (8 November) that the company was responding to queries from “a lot of folks” around whether accounts that receive a blue tick as part of the Twitter Blue service will be considered official accounts.

Following Musk’s tweet stating that he “just killed” the feature, Crawford has since clarified that the label is still going out as part of the Twitter Blue launch, but that the company is not focusing on giving the label to individuals at this time.

There was previously no charge to receive a blue tick mark next to a Twitter username, but this was typically reserved for high-profile figures and users who had been verified as trustworthy sources.

This is particularly important in the context of accounts that belong to politicians, governments and public officials, which is why Twitter decided to delay the roll-out of check marks to subscribers of its $8 per month service until after the US midterm elections.

“The new Twitter Blue does not include ID verification – it’s an opt-in, paid subscription that offers a blue checkmark and access to select features,” Crawford’s tweet read. “We’ll continue to experiment with ways to differentiate between account types.”

The latest move by Twitter, which laid off around half its global employees last week, is seemingly aimed at making verification more available and tackling the problem of accounts pretending to be other people, especially important public figures or bodies.

Yoel Roth, head of safety and integrity at Twitter, tweeted that such misleading profiles “make Twitter worse for everyone”. He said that Twitter banned more than half a million accounts last year for impersonating people and brands.

Citing Twitter’s existing rules around parody accounts, Roth said: “When verified accounts use impersonation as a tactic – whether for parody or not – it creates an especially confusing experience. It’s been our longstanding practice to suspend verified users when they do this.”

He added that the planned changes to Twitter Blue to make verification more widely available “raise the stakes” for this kind of impersonation.

“In the short term, we’ll ramp up proactive review of Blue verified accounts that show signs of impersonating another user. When we find them, we’ll suspend them,” he said.

“Long-term, I think we need to invest more in identity verification as a complement to proof-of-humanness,” Roth added, saying that the $8 per month charge raises the costs of spam “a lot” and is an efficient way to fight bots on the platform.

Updated, 5.32pm, 9 November 2022: This is an updated version of an article that was originally published at 8.54am.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic