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Elon Musk considers charging Twitter users $20 a month for verified accounts



Elon Musk is considering charging Twitter users $20 (£17.30) a month or $240 a year for a blue tick on their account, as the world’s richest person prepares an overhaul of the social media platform. The Tesla chief executive is planning changes to Twitter’s Blue subscription service, according to the tech newsletter Platformer, including raising the $4.99 a month fee to $19.99. Users verified by the platform – who carry a blue tick flagging them as an authentic source – would have 90 days to sign up to Blue or lose their check mark.

Musk did not comment directly on the story but tweeted to his more than 110 million followers on Sunday that “the whole verification process is being revamped right now”.

He also flagged a Twitter poll launched on Monday morning asking Twitter users how much they would pay a month for a blue tick: $5; $10; $15; or “wouldn’t pay”. The poll was set up by the tech investor Jason Calacanis, a Musk associate who is part of a team brought in by the multibillionaire to help run the business since the $44bn takeover. A basic subscription on Netflix costs $6.99 or £4.99 a month.

An overwhelming majority of respondents to the poll said they wouldn’t pay at all; but a substantial minority indicated they would. There are about 400,000 verified users on Twitter, as of 2021, but the programme has long been plagued with problems. Introduced in 2009 as a response to a growing wave of celebrity concerns about impersonation – including from Kanye West, who blogged that “EVERYTHING THAT TWITTER OFFERS I NEED LESS OF” – the “blue tick” rapidly came to be a status symbol, rather than simple proof of identity.

That led to Twitter withdrawing the verification status from controversial users such as the rightwing personality Milo Yiannopoulos, facing criticism for granting it to white supremacists, and eventually pausing the entire programme for a number of years before resuming it in 2021.

Even if every extant verified user paid the fee, the annual income would be less than a tenth of the estimated $1bn in interest payments due on Musk’s loans to buy the site.

But Musk may have bigger aims: one of his stated goals upon offering to acquire Twitter in April was to “verify all the humans”, and expanding its niche subscription service could provide significant revenue.

The Washington Post also reported on Monday that Musk was planning to lay off 25% of Twitter’s 7,500 staff in a first round of job cuts at the San Francisco-based company. In an interaction with a Twitter user on Sunday, Musk was asked what the “most messed up” thing was at the company, to which he replied: “There seem to be 10 people ‘managing’ for every one person coding”.

Musk’s plans for Twitter since the takeover have been largely played out over his account on the platform. In a further hint at a big change at the company, Musk launched a poll on Monday asking users if he should bring back Vine, the video-sharing app viewed as a precursor to TikTok but shut down by Twitter in 2016.

Musk indicated that challenging TikTok would be a motive for the move in an exchange with the YouTube star Mr Beast, who wrote that “if you did that and actually competed with tik tok that’d be hilarious”. Musk replied: “What could we do to make it better than TikTok?”. Twitter has 230 million users, compared with more than 1 billion on TikTok.

Musk and his team also appear to be going through internal communications sent by staff in the run-up to the takeover, after tweeting a chat message sent by a senior employee in May 2022 on Monday morning.

He has also pledged to keep content policies in place and maintain bans on restricted accounts until a Twitter content moderation council, announced by the billionaire last week, has met. (The Guardian)

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