Musk stops Twitter's coveted blue tick as impostors run amok

Musk stops Twitter’s coveted blue tick as impostors run amok

Twitter Inc suspended its recently announced $8 blue subscription service on Friday as fake accounts exploded, and new owner Elon Musk brought back the “official” badge to some users of the social media platform.

The coveted blue tick was previously reserved for verified accounts of politicians, celebrities, journalists, and other public figures. But a subscription option, open to anyone willing to pay, was rolled out earlier this week to help Twitter boost revenue as Musk battles to retain advertisers.

The about-face is part of two chaotic weeks on Twitter since Musk completed his $44 billion acquisition. Musk has laid off nearly half of Twitter’s workforce, fired its board and senior executives, and raised the prospect of Twitter’s bankruptcy. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission said Thursday it was monitoring Twitter with “deep concern.”

Several users reported on Friday that the new subscription option for the blue verification tick had disappeared, while a source told Reuters that the offer had been abandoned.

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.

Fake accounts claiming to be big brands have popped up with the blue check since the new rollout, including Musk’s Tesla and SpaceX, as well as Roblox, Nestlé, pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Lockheed Martin.

“To combat identity theft, we have added an ‘Official’ label to some accounts,” the Twitter support account – which bears the “official” tag – tweeted on Friday.

The label was originally introduced on Wednesday, but was then “killed” by Musk hours later.

Drug manufacturer Eli Lilly and Co issued an apology after a fake account tweeted that insulin would be free, amid political backlash and scrutiny over the drug’s high prices.

“We apologize to those who received a misleading message from a fake Lilly account,” the company said, reiterating its Twitter account name.

Several misleading tweets about Tesla from a verified account with the same profile picture as the company’s official account were also posted on the platform.

“Twitter has, over the past few years, worked to try to improve this [misinformation]. And it looks like Elon Musk unraveled it in a matter of weeks,” said AJ Bauer, a professor at the University of Alabama.

Musk had said that Twitter users who engage in impersonation without clearly specifying it as a “parody” account would be permanently suspended without warning. Several fake brand accounts, including those of Nintendo and BP, have been suspended.

In his first company-wide email on Thursday, Musk warned that Twitter would not be able to “survive the coming economic downturn” if it failed to grow subscription revenue for make up for the decline in ad revenue, three people who saw the post told Reuters.

“Who Buys in Chaos”

Many companies, including General Motors and United Airlines, have suspended or pulled advertising on the platform since Musk took over. In response, the billionaire said on Wednesday that he aims to make Twitter a force for truth and stop fake accounts.

Twitter relies heavily on ads and around 90% of its revenue comes from advertisers. But every change Musk rolls out — or rolls back — makes the site less appealing to big brands.

“It’s become chaos,” said Richard Levick, CEO of public relations firm Levick. “Who Buys in Chaos?”

A bigger issue for Musk may be the risk to his reputation as a model technology framework as the rollout of different types of checks and other changes has been botched, Levick added.

“It’s another example of something not being very well thought out, and that’s what happens when you rush,” Levick said. “Musk is known as a visionary and a trusted magician. He can’t lose that nickname, and that’s what’s in danger right now.

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