Just before the midterm election, Twitter announced it would put on hold the rollout of a plan for paid verification, a curious decision.
The announcement seemed odd to me. Why would Twitter announce that it was pausing the rollout of its paid verification plan until after the midterm election?
You could also ask why they’d bother to wait until the day before the election to make the announcement. By then, the delay would only amount to 48 hours.
In case you’ve missed the story, here’s how it lays out. Elon Musk, Twitter’s new owner, said Twitter’s current system of determining which accounts are “verified” was bogus. Actually, that’s not exactly what he called it:
To replace it, Musk announced a new idea. Anyone can receive that blue checkmark by simply joining Twitter Blue. Twitter Blue is a paid subscription model that used to cost about $4 per month. He’s doubling that monthly fee, and in exchange, he’s adding the blue checkmark as a perk. That turns the old verification process into paid verification.
The old verification process was designed to make sure people were who they said they were. It gave users a bit more confidence that Twitter had done a little homework to ensure the accounts purporting to be run by celebrities, politicians, media outlets or other notables were actually run by the genuine article.
Twitter didn’t make it easy to get the blue checkmark.
Paid verification, however, makes it too easy: if anyone can get that symbol only by virtue of paying eight bucks a month, you lose the assurance that the account is run by the real person or company.
Musk seems to think his way makes more sense.
So then why would Twitter pause the rollout until after the election?
The New York TImes reported that an internal post indicated Twitter employees raised concerns about rolling out the paid verification option so close to an election. They said, according to the Times report, that giving anyone the option to get the blue checkmark “has the potential of causing election interference.”
The Times then reported this:
A manager working on the verification badge project responded on Sunday that “we’ve made the decision to move the launch of this release to Nov. 9, after the election.”
Well, wait a second. If there’s no reason to believe that giving anyone the option to pay $7.99 monthly for the appearance of legitimacy, why would they decide to wait?
Either the old system is terrible and the new plan is the better option or it isn’t. If it’s a bad move before an election, why wouldn’t it be a bad move immediately after an election?
If they’re afraid paid verification could lead to confusion now, how can they honestly think it wouldn’t lead to confusion two days later? What’s supposed to change in those two days to address the concerns?
Nothing, I suspect.
You can’t exactly argue that Musk is trying to remain impartial…especially when he tweets things like this:
I’m sure there are people who love the paid verification idea. I’m not one of them.
To me, it’s a sign to take things on Twitter with an even bigger grain of salt than ever. That would seem to make the service less valuable, not more.