Twitter Inc. aims to start selling blue verification badges for user profiles as soon as next week, part of a plan by new owner Elon Musk to fight fake accounts and squeeze revenue from the company he bought for $44 billion.
The badges will be part of an $8-a-month subscription that could go live as early as Monday, according to people familiar with the plans. Users who already have a blue verification badge will have a multi-month grace period before they will either need to pay for the badge or lose it, said one of the people, who requested anonymity discussing plans that aren’t public.
The company also plans to expand access to its edit function. The edit feature, currently available to so-called Twitter Blue users who pay $4.99 a month, will be opened to the rest of the users for free, one of the people said. That change could be implemented as soon as this week, the person said.
Billionaire Musk and a close cadre of advisers are considering a host of changes to the way Twitter is run and makes money, and it’s possible that the timing for the subscriptions and edit-button rollout could change, the people said. A Twitter representative didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The plan to charge for verification has polarized users, with some people who currently have the white check mark inside a light blue field saying they won’t pay to keep it. Some have publicly tweeted in favour of the new business model, concurring with Musk that it will help weed out “bots” or spam accounts. Twitter has historically used blue verification badges to identify high-profile users who may be at risk of impersonation — people like journalists, politicians and activists — and has never charged for the badge. Musk called the current setup a “lords and peasants system,” adding that users who pay $8 a month will also get other perks like “half as many ads” and “priority in replies, mentions & search.”
The quick turnaround for the new products reflects the speed at which Musk wants to move. One of the company’s product leaders in charge of Twitter Blue, Esther Crawford, tweeted on Wednesday that she slept at the office in an effort to meet her deadlines.
Critics say that giving verified users priority will mean that users who don’t pay will have their posts diminished or silenced. “Lmao at a billionaire earnestly trying to sell people on the idea that ‘free speech’ is actually an $8/mo subscription plan,” tweeted Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York.
“Your feedback is appreciated, now pay $8,” Musk replied.
Twitter will allow government accounts to stay verified, as well as those in regions where Twitter cannot charge payment, one person said. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said earlier Wednesday that the president and his administration had not yet considered whether it would pay to retain verification.