Is Elon Musk’s move to grant verified blue check-marks only to paying Twitter users designed to prop up the company’s revenue — or is it supposedly to democratize the social network?
After actor William Shatner groused about Twitter’s plan to revoke legacy blue check-marks as of April 1 and force users to pay for the privilege, the multibillionaire tech baron claimed the subscription-based verification program is about fairness, not lucre.
“It’s more about treating everyone equally,” Musk tweeted Sunday evening in replying to Shatner. “There shouldn’t be a different standard for celebrities imo.”
Shatner, who has 2.5 million Twitter followers, had tweeted at the tech mogul on Saturday, “Hey @elonmusk what’s this about blue checks going away unless we pay Twitter? I’ve been here for 15 years giving my ⏰ & witty thoughts all for bupkis. Now you’re telling me that I have to pay for something you gave me for free? What is this – the Colombia Records & Tape Club?🙄”
Musk’s assertion that eliminating Twitter’s free blue check-mark badges for notable accounts is aimed at leveling the playing field is in contrast to what he told writer Stephen King last fall — when Musk defended the paid-verification system by saying, “we need to pay the bills somehow!“
In October 2022, King, responding to an earlier report that Twitter was mulling a $20/month charge for blue check-marks, wrote, “Fuck that, they should pay me. If that gets instituted, I’m gone like Enron.” The legendary horror writer added, “It ain’t the money, it’s the principle of the thing.” Shortly afterward, Musk replied to King, saying, “We need to pay the bills somehow! Twitter cannot rely entirely on advertisers. How about $8 [per month]?”
After April 1, 2023, the only individual Twitter users who will have verified blue check-marks are those paying for Twitter Blue, which in the U.S. costs $8/month via the web and $11/month through in-app payment on iOS and Android. Twitter also plans to charge businesses and organizations $1,000/month to retain verified status.
Musk has previously blasted Twitter’s previous system of verification as “corrupt and nonsensical.” Prior to Twitter’s change allowing anyone to get a blue check-mark, the social network had more than 420,000 verified accounts (designated as such because they were “active, notable and authentic”).
Meanwhile, Musk told Twitter employees in an internal memo Friday that he now values the company at $20 billion — less than half the $44 billion he paid for it, per reports by Platformer and other outlets. According to Musk’s memo, Twitter employees will receive stock grants based on the lower $20 billion valuation.
In another recent development, portions of Twitter’s source code were illicitly shared on GitHub by a user with the handle “FreeSpeechEnthusiast” where it apparently had been public for “several months” before being removed, according to the New York Times, citing a legal filing.