Business magnate Elon Musk has been the official owner and CEO of Twitter for less than two weeks but has already made some major changes to the social media giant. Within days of taking over the platform, Musk laid off around 50% of the workforce, or around 3,700 employees (the company has since taken steps to rehire select staffers).
Additionally, Musk announced impending changes to content moderation, the homepage, in-app ads, and, perhaps most importantly, the site’s verification system. Until now, the little blue checkmark next to a Twitter user’s display name has indicated the real account of a celebrity or other public figure.
Under Elon Musk, however, Twitter has begun to implement a pay-to-play strategy for verification. Rather than an application process, a user needs only pay $8 per month for the blue check. According to Musk, the shift to a subscription-based social media platform will give Twitter “a revenue stream to reward content creators” while lessening its dependence on advertisers.
Leading up to the shift, the company planned to roll out the subscription feature on November 7. Just one day after announcing the shift, however, the change was pushed back to the 9th.
The New York Times reported that Musk was delaying the policy due to the midterm elections. Citing an internal memo at Twitter, the Times claimed the CEO is concerned that the new feature, allowing anyone and everyone to be verified, could cause the spread of false information. Should that occur, it could influence the outcome of the elections.
Celebrities Roast Elon Musk’s Alterations to Twitter
Despite the delay, the app’s latest update outlined the new $7.99 verification feature. “Get Twitter Blue if you sign up now,” the statement read. “Blue checkmark: Power to the people. Your account will get a blue checkmark, just like the celebrities, companies, and politicians you follow.”
“Since you’re supporting Twitter in the battle against the bots, we’re going to reward you with half the ads and make them twice as relevant.”
As with his other major shakeups to the social media platform, Elon Musk’s decision to completely change Twitter’s verification process was met with intense public backlash. Many celebrities used the remaining days of their free-to-use blue checks to troll Musk.
One such celebrity was comedian Sarah Silverman. In response to the impending changes, Silverman used her verified account to mimic Musk, changing her profile picture, cover image, and name to match his own. “I am a freedom of speech absolutist and I eat doody for breakfast every day,” she tweeted. In response, Elon Musk and Twitter “temporarily restricted” Silverman’s account.
Actress Valerie Bertinelli made similar jokes. After changing her account to match Musk’s, she tweeted, “The blue checkmark simply meant your identity was verified. Scammers would have a harder time impersonating you. That no longer applies. Good luck out there!”
Kathy Griffin joined the wave of pranksters and received a suspension from the site as well. Following the flood of impersonations, Musk announced that Twitter users will no longer receive a warning before being suspended. “This will be clearly identified as a condition for signing up to Twitter Blue,” he tweeted.