Elon Musk, the new owner of Twitter, rolled out a new mechanism to identify “official” accounts but “killed” the idea shortly thereafter.
The social media platform is working to reconsider which users receive the blue checkmark icon next to their names. Before the world’s richest man acquired the company, the symbol indicated accounts belonging to celebrities, official government agencies, members of the media, and other “authentic accounts of public interest,” according to a help page published by Twitter.
The new mechanism added the word “Official” under verified accounts in addition to the traditional blue checkmark.
Users with a blue checkmark either received the designation under the “previous verification criteria” or enrolled in Twitter Blue, a subscription plan introduced on Wednesday by which users can pay $7.99 per month for verification.
After high-profile users expressed confusion and disapproval for the move, the labels were nixed. Musk remarked on Wednesday that he personally “killed” the idea.
I just killed it
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 9, 2022
“Please note that Twitter will do lots of dumb things in coming months,” he added, noting that the company will “keep what works” and “change what doesn’t.”
Some criticism regarding the new verification and pricing regime was less than constructive. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) complained that “a billionaire” was “earnestly trying to sell people on the idea” that free expression comes at the price of an $8 subscription plan. Musk responded, “Your feedback is appreciated, now pay $8,” and posted a screenshot of a hoodie that the lawmaker sells online for $58.
Musk also prohibited users from impersonating others, permanently banning comedian Kathy Griffin for pretending to be Musk himself. “Going forward, any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying ‘parody’ will be permanently suspended,” Musk cautioned. “Previously, we issued a warning before suspension, but now that we are rolling out widespread verification, there will be no warning.”
The multibillionaire, who said he bought the company for $44 billion in order to reserve a corner of the public square for open dialogue, induced leftist ire after he officially took over the platform two weeks ago. Musk said that a number of advertisers have since ended their relationships with the company, dealing a significant blow to the business.
“Twitter has had a massive drop in revenue, due to activist groups pressuring advertisers, even though nothing has changed with content moderation and we did everything we could to appease the activists,” Musk remarked on the platform. “Extremely messed up! They’re trying to destroy free speech in America.”
A number of left-leaning organizations, including Media Matters for America, the NAACP, the National Center for Transgender Equality, and the Union of Concerned Scientists, recently wrote a letter to the executives of major advertisers, calling on them to “cease all advertising” if Musk backs down from content moderation. “Not only are extremists celebrating Musk’s takeover of Twitter, they are seeing it as a new opportunity to post the most abusive, harassing, and racist language and imagery,” the organizations alleged. “This includes clear threats of violence against people with whom they disagree. Without deliberate efforts by Twitter to address this type of abuse and hate, your brands will be actively supporting accelerating extremism.”