Twitter Blue, a subscription service for Twitter, faced quite a controversy from Nov. 9-11, after opening and closing its newest feature in less than a week.
Twitter released Twitter Blue as a subscription service for users on June 3, 2021, which gave users additional features such as an undo button that delayed a tweet from going out, thus allowing users time to delete a tweet. The subscription was originally $2.99 per month.
Since Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter on Oct. 28, Musk had different plans for the subscription service. Initially, it seemed the new cost would be $19.99 per month and verified accounts had to sign up for it in 90 days or lose their verified status. However, as of Nov. 1 it was announced as $7.99 per month, and with the Twitter Blue subscription, users would automatically have their accounts shown as verified, allowing anyone to become verified. This format launched on Nov. 9.
Immediately following this, users began to abuse the new feature by impersonating celebrities, companies and even politicians, causing confusion about which accounts are the actual verified accounts and which are impersonators using the Twitter Blue feature.
This has caused quite a stir, including causing a drop in the stocks of certain companies targeted by the impersonators, such as the pharmaceutical company Eli Lily and Company after an account posing as the company’s official account declared that insulin was now free.
As of Nov. 10, Twitter has updated its policies on parody, fan and commentary accounts, stating that these accounts must clearly identify parody in the Twitter bio and in its name (which is separate from its username).
“Going forward, accounts engaged in parody must include ‘parody’ in their name, not just in bio,” Musk said in a Tweet Nov. 10, linking to Twitter’s updated policy.
“The account name should clearly indicate that the account is not affiliated with the subject portrayed in the profile,” Twitter’s rules now state. “Accounts can indicate this by incorporating words such as, but not limited to, ‘parody,’ ‘fake,’ ‘fan’ or ‘commentary.’ This language should be stated in a way that can be
understood by the intended audience.”
While the impersonators were the reason Twitter Blue was put on hold, that was not the only concern people had about the new supposed “verification” system.
Elizabeth Friederang, junior general biology major, expressed her concerns about making it easier for users to have verified accounts.
“I think it was kind of a dumb idea to start with, making verifications available to just anyone,” Friederang said. “I think that was just Elon Musk trying to make more money, but I think it’s not special anymore. It doesn’t mean anything if everybody’s verified, right? So it kind of just takes it away. Nobody’s verified if everybody’s verified.”
Jasmine Jackson, senior communication sciences and disorders major, said she thinks Musk should have seen the abuse coming and perhaps potentially did.
“Honestly people are going to be people and when they see an opportunity, usually they take it, especially if it’s for attention or money or whatever the case may be, usually society will take that opportunity,” Jackson said. “Elon Musk is a really smart man, so he probably knew that was going to happen. He just wanted to test his own theory out, maybe.”
Musk has not given up on Twitter Blue, though, despite its recent controversy, and plans to bring it back just a couple weeks after they shut it down. Musk said Twitter Blue will come back “probably end of next week” in response to a tweet from Twitter user @PaulJamil on Nov. 12.
During this transitional period for the social media site, there will likely be plenty of changes, some of which might stick, but others will be taken away, depending on user input and profitability.
Musk has lost a lot of ad revenue for Twitter during his acquisition of the site, and as a result needs to find other ways to make money off of Twitter to make up for lost ad revenue. Promoting the Twitter subscription is one way he is looking to do this, and despite this setback when it comes to Twitter Blue, he has not given up on the subscription service for Twitter. He knew going into this that some things he tries to implement for the site will face backlash and might not work out for Twitter in the long run.
Musk has said that Twitter is in an experimental phase while he is working on new ways to make money off the site, and he asked users to be patient while they figure out what works for users and what doesn’t.
“Please note that Twitter will do lots of dumb things in coming months,” Musk tweeted on Nov. 9. “We will keep what works & change what doesn’t.”