By Clare Duffy, CNN
Twitter on Monday relaunched an option for users who pay for its subscription service to receive a coveted “blue check,” one month after the company was forced to pull the feature amid a wave of “verified” accounts pretending to be brands and high-profile users.
The updated verification system, which expands on check mark options with multiple new colors, is part of new owner Elon Musk’s effort to grow its subscription business and bolster the bottom line of the company he bought for $44 billion, including a substantial amount of debt financing.
The new Twitter Blue subscription service will cost $8 per month for users that subscribe via the web platform and $11 per month for those who subscribe on the iOS app, according to a tweet from Esther Crawford, the Twitter product head leading the subscription service effort. The higher price point on iOS appears to be an effort to account for Apple’s 30% app transaction fee, which Musk recently railed against.
As part of the new verification system, Twitter will offer gold checks for companies, gray checks for government entities and other organizations, and blue checks for individuals, whether or not they are celebrities. The gold business verification check mark started appearing Monday on the accounts for various companies, such as The New York Times and Taco Bell. Later on Monday, the option to subscribe to Twitter Blue returned to the platform.
Musk has previously suggested that individuals who had been verified under the old system — because they are journalists, celebrities or public figures — would have their checks removed if they did not pay for Twitter’s new subscription service. On Monday, he tweeted that “all legacy blue checks” would be removed “in a few months.”
Some Twitter users have started to see a new explanatory note when they click on the blue checks of accounts that were verified before Musk’s takeover that reads: “This is a legacy verified account. It may or may not be notable.”
Musk has also said that Twitter, which has cut more than half its staff and lost many others to attrition, would “manually authenticate” all verified accounts before approving their check mark. The company will also temporarily remove check marks pending authentication if verified users change their account names. It’s unclear what that authentication process will involve, beyond verifying that users have a functional phone number. Crawford said in a tweet: “we don’t have ID verification in this update.”
The company says subscribers to the new Twitter Blue will also eventually have their tweets prioritized at the top of replies, mentions and search; see half the number of ads; and be able to post longer videos.
Musk initially said the relaunch of the new system would take place at the end of November, but it was delayed several times over concerns about the safety of the feature.
The billionaire Twitter owner has promoted the ability to pay for verification as a way of leveling the playing field. But such an option also threatens to undermine the original purpose of verification — to help users know they can trust information being shared by prominent figures.
In attempting to use the paid verification option to boost its subscription revenue, Musk also risked further alienating many of the advertisers who still make up the vast majority of its sales. Within hours of launching the paid verification option last month, major brands including Nintendo of America and Eli Lilly had their accounts impersonated.
The additional gold and gray verification categories appear aimed at addressing some of those concerns, but it’s not clear what a requirement for individuals to pay to be verified would mean for trust in prominent individual users.
“All verified individual humans will have same blue check, as boundary of what constitutes ‘notable’ is otherwise too subjective,” Musk tweeted last month. “Individuals can have secondary tiny logo showing they belong to an org if verified as such by that org.”
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