Elon Musk has “killed” a new ‘Official’ label for high-profile Twitter accounts within hours of rolling them out.
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”.
The rollback comes as the platform prepares to start allowing any user to sign up for its blue-tick verification badge by signing up to the firm’s Twitter Blue subscription service and paying a monthly fee.
The Twitter boss said the change - set to be rolled out after the US midterms - would give “power to the people” and allow anyone to have the label, rather than just those in public-facing roles.
The move has sparked concerns this would make it harder to identify authentic accounts on the site, as Blue subscribers will not be required to verify who they are.
Twitter later announced it was adding a second “Official” badge to select accounts as a way of distinguishing Blue subscribers from those the platform has verified as official. 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.”
Instead, Musk said that they would be “extremely vigorous” about eliminating deception. He added: “I go back to what I said earlier, which is that we’re going to be extremely vigorous about eliminating deception.
“So if someone tries to impersonate a brand, that account will be suspended, and we will keep their eight dollars. And they can keep doing that, and we will just keep their eight dollars again, and again – great – we can do it all day long, they will stop.
“So the key point here is if an account is engaged in trickery, we will suspend it. They will try, of course, they will try. But it starts to get expensive, and they will start to need a lot of credit cards and a lot of phones – and eventually they will stop paying.”
The changes to the verification system have been a central part of Musk’s plans since the billionaire completed his takeover of the platform last month. He argued that opening the verification process up to more people will help democratise Twitter and cut down on the spam and bot accounts on the site.
Critics have responded by saying that charging people to get a blue badge and the other perks that come with it – including verified replies appearing more prominently – will only help those who are able to pay for it and not the platform’s authentic users as a whole.
The introduction of the eight dollar (£7) monthly fee for Twitter Blue is also part of Musk’s efforts to create new revenue streams for Twitter. The platform is currently almost entirely dependent on money from advertising - an income stream already shrinking because of the global economic downturn.
There have also been reports advertisers could withdraw from the site if Musk enacts some of his other controversial plans for Twitter, including allowing banned accounts, such as that of Donald Trump, to return.