Twitter owner Elon Musk seems to be taking the Silicon Valley adage of “move fast and break things” to a new level of speed and destruction. The drama has been most apparent in the platform’s paid verification system that rolled out this past week and has already proved a massive headache for Twitter and an all out shit show for regular users.
After first announcing plans for an $8 paid verification system, Twitter has gone through a whirlwind of multiple renditions of the system before arriving at its current incarnation. Just this week Twitter tried adding a gray “Official” checkmark for certain government officials, media, and major brands before quickly pulling the feature. In the latest version of verification, everybody gets a blue checkmark, but if you click on the icon in each Twitter profile it will either say whether they were verified because they are a public identity, or if they coughed up the cash for the privilege.
And with documents showing recent layoffs have taken chunks out of Twitter’s engineering capacity, these constant changes and updates to existing systems must be exhausting for those who still remain at the company.
As a reminder, verified accounts were originally introduced to stop users from impersonating public figures. The platform had already been sued for facilitating these fakes, so Musk has to walk a fine line between monetizing the blue checkmark while claiming the site is safe for public figures, and most importantly, advertisers. If only they could get Musk himself to take the situation a bit more seriously.
Those who purchase the blue checkmark show they have “an active subscription to Twitter Blue,” but their tweets also now show up in Twitter’s new verified section on Twitter’s notifications. The paid blue checkmark is currently unavailable to Android or Twitter.com users, but anybody who pays up can bookmark folders, add themes, and undo tweets, among other features.
This system has obvious drawbacks, especially because it’s not clear at first glance which accounts were previously verified before Musk came on, and which were bought. On Thursday, Twitter silently changed its Twitter Blue policy to stop any accounts created after Nov. 9 to subscribe to Twitter Blue. Those who purchase their check are also unable to change their display name, and the company claims they will be implementing a new process to change names “soon.”
Two Twitter users, Will Seagar and Walter Lim, have even created a Chrome Extension called “Eight Dollars” that will modify the Twitter verification to make it immediately apparent who was officially verified and who paid for their checkmark.
Meanwhile, there are also lingering accounts on Twitter that have been routinely cited for hate and attack campaigns that have purchased their way to the blue checkmark. As of reporting, many renowned ultra right-wing Twitter accounts remain up and verified, although some have been hid with warnings that “this profile may include potentially sensitive content.” These accounts are especially dangerous, as the verification may make their messages gain even more attention.