Twitter began advertising the launch of its paid subscription service in Apple’s 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 mark given to verified accounts on Twitter will soon available to any Twitter Blue user who pays $7.99 per month. The new model is raising alarm about the consequences the system could have on disinformation ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. Since 2009, blue-checked accounts had been distributed to users through a verification process as a way to separate authentic accounts from impersonators.
An update to the Twitter app on iOS devices said users who sign up now can receive the blue check “just like the celebrities, companies and politicians you already follow.”
Despite the name of the new Twitter Blue feature, Twitter has not specified any requirements needed to verify a user’s authenticity beyond the monthly fee.
It’s unclear when paid users will receive the new check marks next to their names or when verified accounts without a paid subscription are set to lose their verification.
“The new Blue isn’t live yet — the sprint to our launch continues but some folks may see us making updates because we are testing and pushing changes in real-time,” a products team manager at the company tweeted.
Android phones are next in line for the subscription rollout, she added, without specifying the timing.
A day earlier, Twitter laid off half of its workforce to cut 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 advertising revenue. The billionaire recently vowed to advertisers that Twitter would not turn into a “free-for-all hellscape.”
Musk explained his reasoning for the verification revamp in a tweet on Saturday.
“Far too many legacy ‘verified’ checkmarks were 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 off payment system plus Apple/Android is a much better way to ensure verification.”
Big tech watchdog groups say making changes to verification standards so close to an election could be confusing or dangerous. Fears remain that looser content moderation rules could inflame the kind of hateful rhetoric on the platform that leads to real-world violence.