Explained: Elon Musk’s ‘pay for Twitter blue tick’ row

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Elon Musk is reportedly shaking up Twitter’s verification system and it hasn’t been well-received by the users. AFP

The new era of Twitter is here after Elon Musk took control of the social media platform. As the world’s richest man took charge of the company, he began with swift firings — including that of CEO Parag Agrawal, CFO Ned Segal and policy chief Vijaya Gadda.

Since then, the man behind SpaceX and Tesla has been working day and night trying to introduce more changes at Twitter, including revisions in the content policy as well as the verification process, which provides a ‘Blue tick’ to verified accounts.

Elon Musk had previously said that he wanted to introduce paid verification on Twitter and The Verge reports that he also gave employees an ultimatum: Meet his deadline to introduce paid verification on Twitter or pack up and leave.

However, his decision to charge users for the prestigious ‘blue tick’ has irked many, including bestselling author Stephen King, who has slammed the billionaire for the move, saying if the new rule gets instituted, he would leave the micro-blogging website. Mind you, King has 6.9 million followers and is known worldwide.

As Musk deals with the backlash over his proposed move, we decode for you what exactly is the Twitter blue tick all about and why there’s such a hue and cry about paying for it.

Musk’s payment for blue ticks

Days after he took over Twitter, Elon Musk said in a tweet on Sunday that he was going to revise its user verification process. “Whole verification process is being revamped right now,” Musk said in his tweet without giving more details.

Also read: Elon Musk completes Twitter takeover. What changes will the billionaire introduce?

Post his tweet, Platformer reported that Musk was thinking of introducing a $4.99 (Rs 412) a month charge for users to retain their ‘blue’ badges. The Verge then reported that Musk and his team was planning to charge users $19.99 (Rs 1.653) a month for the new Twitter Blue subscription.

Furthermore, Twitter accounts that already have the verification, will have to comply with this new mechanism and pay up for the blue tick. The report suggests that verified users will have a total 90 days to move to Twitter Blue or they will end up losing their checkmark.

The report caught the attention of many netizens; some cried foul over the move, while others mocked the decision.

English comedian and actor Kathy Burke criticised Musk and suggested he should be paying her instead for her content on the platform.

“Musk can f*** off with his idea of charging blue-tickers,” she said. “I give my all to this hell site for FREE. Cheeky b**** should be paying ME. Don’t need the poxy thing anyway. He may take our vibes but he’ll never take our memedom!”

Stephen King’s ire at the proposed payment plan prompted a response from the ‘Chief Twit’ himself, who appeared to negotiate with the author on the charge, saying, “How about $8?”

Musk then adds, “I will explain the rationale in the longer form before this is implemented. It is the only way to defeat the bots & trolls.”

Explained Elon Musks pay for Twitter blue tick row

Twitter headquarters in San Francisco. Elon Musk has taken control of Twitter after a protracted legal battle and months of uncertainty. AP

Fuss over the blue tick

The blue tick that appears on a person or organisation’s Twitter page indicates the authenticity of that account. Simply put, it means that the account does belong to that entity and it isn’t a parody account.

While Musk sees the blue checkmark as something akin to a status symbol, it goes much beyond that — it allows a person to be considered trustworthy and helps users discover high-quality sources of information.

In fact, the verification process started in 2009 after a legal squabble with Tony La Russa, the former manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. La Russa sued Twitter because he was being impersonated on the platform.

If Musk went ahead with his plan of charging customers for the blue tick, then anyone with the money would be able to acquire it and pass off less-than-reliable information as ‘verified’. Thus, enabling the platform to become a treasure trove of misinformation and fake news — an issue that the company is already fighting.

How does verification work presently?

As of date, anyone can apply for Twitter verification. To get a blue checkmark, an account must be notable and active.

The platform allows users to apply once every 30 days and involves steps such as submitting a photo of your driver’s licence or linking a news article that references your Twitter handle, all in the interest of proving to the company and the world that you are indeed who you claim to be.

With inputs from agencies

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