Twitter Inc on Friday put its recently announced $8 blue tick subscription service on hold as fake accounts exploded, and new owner Elon Musk returned the “official” badge to some users of the social media platform.
The coveted blue checkmark was previously reserved for verified accounts of politicians, famous personalities, journalists and other public figures. But a subscription option, open to anyone willing to pay, was rolled out earlier this week to help Twitter boost revenue as Musk fights to retain advertisers.
The flip-flop is part of a chaotic two weeks on Twitter since Musk completed his $44 billion acquisition. Musk has laid off nearly half of Twitter’s workforce, removed its board of directors and senior executives, and signaled the prospect of Twitter’s bankruptcy. The US Federal Trade Commission said it was watching Twitter with “deep concern”.
Several users reported Friday that the new subscription option for the blue verification check was gone, while a source told Reuters the offer has been scrapped.
Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.
Since the new rollout, fake accounts that appear to be big brands have surfaced with the blue check, including Musk’s Tesla and SpaceX, as well as Roblox, Nestle, pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Lockheed Martin.
“To prevent impersonation, we have added an ‘Official’ label to some accounts,” the Twitter support account — which carries the “official” tag — tweeted Friday.
The label was originally launched on Wednesday, but was “killed” by Musk several hours later.
medicine maker Eli Lilly and Co have apologized after a fake account tweeted that insulin would be free, amid political backlash and scrutiny of the drug’s high prices.
“We apologize to those who received a misleading message from a fake Lilly account,” the company said, repeating the name of its Twitter handle.
Several misleading tweets about Tesla from a verified account with the same profile picture as the company’s official account were also circulated on the platform.
“Twitter has been trying to improve that over the past few years [misinformation]. And it looks like Elon Musk unraveled it in a matter of weeks,” said AJ Bauer, a professor at the University of Alabama.
Musk had said that Twitter users impersonating without clearly specifying it as a “parody” account would be permanently suspended without warning. Several fake brand accounts, including those of Nintendo and BP, have been suspended.
On Thursday, Musk warned in his first company-wide email that Twitter would not be able to “survive the impending economic downturn” if it didn’t increase subscription revenues to offset falling ad revenue, three people who saw the message told Reuters. .
‘Who buys in chaos’
Many companies, including General Motors and United Airlines, have stopped advertising on the platform since Musk took over. In response, the billionaire said on Wednesday that he plans to make Twitter a force for truth and stop fake accounts.
Twitter relies heavily on advertising and about 90 percent of its revenue comes from advertisers. But any change Musk rolls out — or rolls back — makes the site less attractive to big brands.
“It has become chaos,” said Richard Levick, CEO of PR firm Levick. “Who buys in chaos?”
Perhaps a bigger problem for Musk is the risk to his reputation as a model tech executive, as the rollout of several types of verifications and other changes has failed, Levick added.
“It’s another example of something that isn’t very well thought out, and that’s what happens when you rush,” Levick said. Musk is known as a trusted visionary and magician. He can’t lose that name, and that’s the risk now.”