Twitter began announcing the launch of its paid subscription service in the Apple App Store on Saturday, following new owner Elon Musk’s promised overhaul of the social media platform’s verification system.
The once-free blue check given to verified accounts on Twitter will soon be available to any Twitter Blue user who pays $7.99 per month. The new model raises the alarm about the consequences the system could have on misinformation ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. Since 2009, blue verification accounts were distributed to users through a verification process to separate accounts genuine imitators.
An update to the Twitter app on iOS devices says users who sign up now can receive the blue check “just like the celebrities, businesses and politicians you already follow”.
Despite the name of the new Twitter Blue feature, Twitter has not specified any requirements necessary to verify a user’s authenticity beyond the monthly fee.
It’s unclear when paid users will receive the new checkmarks next to their name or when verified accounts without a paid subscription are about to lose their verification.
“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 changes in real time,” a product team leader to the company tweeted.
Android phones are next in line for the subscription rollout, she added, without specifying when.
A day earlier, Twitter laid off half of its workforce to reduce costs. musk said the company is losing more than $4 million a day.
Meanwhile, Musk’s commitment to advancing his version of free speech on the platform has cost the company ad revenue. The billionaire recently promised advertisers that Twitter would not turn into a “free-for-all hellscape”.
Musk explained his reasoning for the verification overhaul in a tweet on Saturday.
“Far too many ‘verified’ legacy checkmarks have been handed out, often arbitrarily, so in reality they are *not* verified,” he wrote. “You can buy as many as you want right now with a Google search. Piggybacking on the Apple/Android plus payment system is a much better way to ensure verification.”
Big tech watchdog groups say changing verification standards so close to an election could be confusing or dangerous. Fears remain that looser content moderation rules could ignite the kind of hateful rhetoric on the platform that leads to the violence of the real world.