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Twitter users will soon be able to get a blue check for a monthly fee of $7.99

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By BARBARA ORTUTAY, Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Twitter announced a $7.99-a-month subscription service that includes a blue check now given only to verified accounts as new owner Elon Musk works to overhaul the platform’s verification system just before of the midterm elections in the United States.

In an update to Apple iOS devices available in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK, Twitter said that users who “sign up now” for the new “Twitter Blue with verification” can receive the blue check next to their names. just like the celebrities, businesses, and politicians you already follow.”

But Twitter employee Esther Crawford tweeted on Saturday that “the new Blue isn’t out yet; the sprint towards our launch continues, but some people may see us making updates because we’re testing and pushing changes in real time.” The verified accounts did not appear to be losing their checks thus far.

It was not immediately clear when the subscription would launch. Crawford told The Associated Press in a Twitter message that it’s coming “soon but hasn’t been released yet.” Twitter did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Political cartoons about world leaders

Political Cartoons

Anyone who can get the blue check could lead to confusion and increased misinformation ahead of Tuesday’s election, but Musk tweeted Saturday in response to a question about the risk of impostors posing as verified profiles, such as politicians and officials. elections, that “Twitter will suspend the account for attempted identity theft and will keep the money”.

“So if scammers want to do this a million times, that’s just a bunch of free money,” he said.

But many fear the widespread layoffs that began Friday could destroy the guardrails of content verification and moderation on the social platform that public agencies, election boards, police departments and media outlets use to keep people informed. .

The change will end Twitter’s current verification system, which was launched in 2009 to prevent impersonation of high-profile accounts such as celebrities and politicians. Twitter now has around 423,000 verified accounts, many of them from ordinary journalists around the world who the company verified regardless of how many followers they had.

Experts have raised serious concerns about the platform’s tampering with the verification system, which, while not perfect, has helped Twitter’s 238 million daily users determine whether the accounts they’re getting information from are authentic. Current verified accounts include celebrities, athletes and influencers, along with government agencies and politicians from around the world, journalists and media outlets, activists, companies and brands, and Musk himself.

“He knows the blue check has value and he’s trying to quickly exploit it,” said Jennifer Grygiel, a social media expert and associate professor of communications at Syracuse University. “He needs to gain people’s trust before he can sell them anything. Why would you buy a car from a seller you know has essentially turned out to be chaotic?

Twitter’s update to the iOS version of its app doesn’t mention verification as part of the new blue verification system. So far, the update is not available on Android devices.

Musk, who previously said he wants to “verify every human” on Twitter, has said that public figures would be identified by something other than the blue check. Currently, for example, government officials are identified by text below their names indicating that they are posting from an official government account.

President Joe Biden’s @POTUS account, for example, says in gray letters that it belongs to a “United States government official.”

Seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton, who has 7.8 million Twitter followers, told the AP: “I could just delete my Twitter account, I never use it. I find it very healthy to remove social media from my phone for periods of time.”

“But it’s also a really powerful tool for connecting with people, so I appreciate it and try to use it as that and not as something that throws me off the path I’m on in life,” she said.

The announcement comes a day after Twitter began laying off workers to cut costs and as more companies are halting advertising on the platform as a wary corporate world waits to see how the platform will perform under its new owner.

About half of the company’s 7,500 employees were laid off, tweeted Yoel Roth, Twitter’s chief security and integrity officer.

He said the company’s front-line content moderation staff were the group least affected by the job cuts and that “efforts for election integrity, including damaging misinformation that can suppress the vote, and combating information operations supported by the state, remain a priority.

Twitter co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey took the blame for the job losses.

“I am responsible for why everyone is in this situation: I increased the size of the company too quickly,” he tweeted on Saturday. “I apologize for that”.

Musk tweeted late Friday that there was no choice but to cut jobs “when the company is losing over $4 million a day.” He did not provide details on the daily losses on Twitter, saying employees who lost their jobs were offered three months’ pay as severance pay.

He also said that Twitter has already seen “a massive drop in revenue” as advertisers face pressure from activists to leave the platform, which relies heavily on advertising to make money.

United Airlines on Saturday became the latest major brand to pause advertising on Twitter, joining the likes of General Motors, REI, General Mills and Audi.

Musk tried to reassure advertisers last week, saying Twitter would not turn into “everyone hell” because of what he calls its commitment to free speech.

But concerns remain about whether a lighter touch on content moderation on Twitter will result in users sending more offensive tweets. That could damage companies’ brands if their ads appear next to them.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, urged Musk on Saturday to “ensure that human rights are central to the management of Twitter.” In an open letter, Türk said reports that the company’s entire human rights team and much of the AI ​​ethics team were fired was “not an encouraging start.”

“Like all companies, Twitter needs to understand the harms associated with its platform and take steps to address them,” Türk said. “Respect for our shared human rights should set the barriers for the use and evolution of the platform.”

Meanwhile, Twitter can’t just cut costs to boost profits, and Musk needs to find ways to generate more revenue, said Dan Ives, an analyst at Wedbush. But that may be easier said than done with the new Blue Check subscription program.

“Users have gotten this for free,” Ives said. “There may be a massive pushback.”

He expects 20-25% of verified Twitter users to sign up initially. The stakes are high for Musk and Twitter to get this done early and for subscriptions to run smoothly, he added.

“You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression,” Ives said. “It’s been a train wreck first week for Musk as owner of the Twitter platform. Now you’ve cut 50% (of the workforce). There are questions about the stability of the platform, and advertisers are watching this closely.”

AP Business writer Stan Choe in New York and Associated Press writer Jenna Fryer in Charlotte, NC, contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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