Twitter Blue allows users on Apple’s iOS to sign up and pay for a blue verification badge for the first time, which will give them the blue-tick badge next to their profile name on the platform.
The company said the service would expand to Android and the web version of the app for users in due course, but chief executive Musk continues to face criticism over the controversial change.
Until now, the verification badge was only given to notable or high-profile accounts which Twitter had analysed and deemed authentic, but now the only barrier to clear is for a user to pay a £6.99 monthly subscription.
Musk has argued that adding a paid tier to the platform will help weed out spam and fake accounts because they will not be willing to pay to get traction on the site.
Twitter Blue is also set to add a feature that will promote replies to tweets from verified accounts as a way of rooting out those not verified on the site as part of a range of other perks labelled as “coming soon” to the subscription.
However, critics have warned it will enable a new wave of misinformation as bad actors sign up for the badge and then pose as public figures to spread false information. In the US, accounts pretending to be President Joe Biden and gaming giant Nintendo and sharing offensive material have already been spotted.
Twitter has pledged to stamp out any fake or misleading use of the system and says it will not allow users to change their display name after receiving a badge.
Musk has previously said that a content moderation council would be created and no “major” content or reinstatement decisions would be made before it had convened. He later hinted at one approach to content moderation, suggesting users could select a film-style age rating to filter content when using the site.
He said: “Being able to select which version of Twitter you want is probably better, much as it would be for a movie maturity rating. The rating of the tweet itself could be self-selected, then modified by user feedback.
The Tesla and SpaceX owner was also widely criticised for tweeting, before later deleting, a link to a conspiracy theory about the attack on Paul Pelosi, the husband of senior Democratic politician Nancy Pelosi.
That incident has sparked further concern about Musk’s belief in absolute free speech and a possible subsequent loosening of content moderation now he has control of Twitter, which many campaigners have warned will see abuse, harassment and misinformation grow on the site.
Musk has also offered other glimpses of his possible plans for the company, including asking users in a poll on his Twitter page if the company should bring back Vine, the short-form video app which Twitter shut down in 2016 and was an early forerunner to the likes of TikTok – now a major Twitter rival in the social space.
How will Twitter Blue work?
According to Twitter, the Twitter Blue subscription “offers exclusive access to premium features that let you customise your Twitter experience”. Some of these features include:
- An “Undo Tweet” option
- Ad-free articles from sites participating in Twitter Blue
- Bookmark folders
- Custom app icons on your phone
- Custom navigation options (iOS-only)
- Colourful theme options
Twitter Blue subscribers also receive a dedicated support team for subscription related issues.
Twitter users can now pay a £6.99 montly subscription fee to get a blue verification badge for their account. For now, accounts verified under the old system are allowed to keep their own blue badges. The new system has gone live for users on iOS in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, alongside the UK.
Twitter’s online help pages say the definition of the blue checkmark is “changing” as part of the update. The company said: “Until now, Twitter used the blue checkmark to indicate active, notable, and authentic accounts of public interest that Twitter had independently verified based on certain requirements.
“Now the blue checkmark may mean two different things: either that an account was verified under the previous verification criteria (active, notable, and authentic), or that the account has an active subscription to Twitter Blue.
“Accounts that receive the blue checkmark as part of a Twitter Blue subscription will not undergo review to confirm that they meet the active, notable and authentic criteria that was used in the previous process.”
It adds that the changes are designed to “help reduce fake, untrustworthy accounts, and promote higher quality Twitter”.
What about ‘Official’ Twitter badges?
The Twitter Blue update comes after a chaotic day on the site on Wednesday (9 November) as another form of verification – a grey tick and “Official” badge was rolled out, only to be “killed” by Musk a few hours later after saying it was “an aesthetic nightmare”.
In response to the back and forth, Musk tweeted: “Please note that Twitter will do lots of dumb things in coming months. We will keep what works & change what doesn’t.”
The ‘Official’ tag was intended to mark the accounts of government officials, media outlets and other public figures, but the labels were quickly axed because it was “an aesthetic nightmare”.
Twitter said the ‘Official’ badge on select accounts would serve as a way of distinguishing it from Twitter Blue subscribers. However, some industry commentators argued the new double-verification process would only make the system more confusing.
The platform was responsive to the criticism, rolling back on the move just hours after the new grey Official badge had started to appear on several high-profile accounts, including those for major news organisations and public figures.
Musk defended the decision during a live “Town Hall” discussion with advertisers on Wednesday (9 November). Speaking via the platform’s Twitter Spaces feature, which allows users to join in on live audio discussions, the Twitter boss said that the Official system was “an aesthetic nightmare”.
“The problem with Official is that, apart from it being an aesthetic nightmare when looking at the Twitter feed, is that it was simply another way of creating a two-class system,” he said. “Therefore, it wasn’t addressing the core problem (that) there are too many entities that would be considered official or have sort of legacy blue check marks.”