Twitter’s announcement that it may be ending its free blue checkmark verification program for notable users represents a potential shift in the company’s strategy under the leadership of Elon Musk.
Musk has been threatening to remove the “legacy” checkmarks for government officials, corporations, journalists, celebrities, and other high-profile Twitter users since he took over the company in October.
The announcement, made via a tweet on Thursday, indicates that the policy will go into effect starting on April Fool’s Day, a date on which Musk has been known to engage in trolling behavior.
Twitter users who wish to maintain their blue checkmarks will be required to sign up for Twitter Blue, a subscription service that Musk relaunched late last year at a cost of $84 per year or $8 per month.
The move to charge for verification may provide a much-needed new revenue stream for Twitter, which has been heavily reliant on advertising revenue that has been declining since Musk took over.
However, it also raises questions about the company’s commitment to free speech and whether it is becoming more focused on monetization rather than providing a platform for public discourse.
Charging for Twitter verification has become a way for Elon Musk to both generate additional revenue for the company and express his disapproval of government agencies, journalists, and other groups. However, creating a replacement for the old verification program has not been without difficulties.
Elon Musk’s Twitter Blue and Verification Program
Initially launched in 2021 before Musk’s tenure at Twitter, Twitter Blue was a subscription service that offered “power features” like the ability to undo a tweet and save bookmarks to folders. After Musk relaunched it in November 2022, the service included a blue checkmark among its features for paying users.
However, the program was quickly overwhelmed with users who paid for counterfeit accounts pretending to be famous individuals such as Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, LeBron James, and Nintendo. The impostor accounts posted fake tweets that included offensive content and false information.
Beyond the checkmark, Twitter Blue offers other features like the ability to edit a tweet up to five times within 30 minutes, create tweets up to 4,000 characters long, and post HD videos. The company also claims that Twitter Blue users will see fewer ads in their home timelines and that their tweets will be prioritized in replies, mentions, and searches.
For companies and organizations, Twitter Blue costs $1,000 per month for the main account and $50 per month for each additional related account.
While the introduction of Twitter Blue has provided a new revenue stream for Twitter, it has also highlighted the challenges of maintaining the integrity of the verification process in the face of fraudulent activities.