Elon Musk said on Friday (Nov. 25) that Twitter plans to relaunch its premium service that will offer different colored ticks for accounts next week, in a new move to revamp the service after an earlier attempt backfired.
It’s the latest change to the social media platform that billionaire Tesla CEO bought last month for $44 billion, a day after Musk said he would provide “amnesty” for suspended accounts, causing even more uncertainty for users.
Twitter previously suspended the premium service, which under Musk awarded blue-check labels to anyone who pays $8 a month, due to a wave of impostor accounts. Originally, the blue check was given to public entities, companies, celebrities and journalists who were verified by the platform to prevent impersonation.
In the latest version, businesses will get a gold check, governments will get a gray check and individuals who pay for the service, whether they’re celebrities or not, will get a blue check, Musk said Friday.
“All verified accounts will be manually authenticated before check is activated,” he said, adding that it was “painful but necessary” and promising a “longer explanation” next week. He said the service “tentatively launched” Dec. 2.
Twitter had suspended the revamped premium service days after its launch earlier this month after accounts impersonated companies including pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly & Co., Nintendo, Lockheed Martin and even Musk’s own companies Tesla and SpaceX, along with various professional sports and political figures.
There was only one change in the last two days. On Thursday, Musk said he would grant “amnesty” to suspended accounts, following the results of an online poll he conducted on whether accounts that have not “broken the law or engaged in egregious spamming” should be reinstated.
The yes vote was 72 per cent. Such online polls are anything but scientific and can easily be influenced by bots. Musk also used one before restore former US President Donald Trump’s account.
“The people have spoken. Amnesty begins next week. Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” Musk tweeted Thursday, using a Latin phrase that means “voice of the people, voice of God.”
The move is likely to put the company on a crash course with European regulators trying to crack down on harmful online content with tough new rules that helped cement Europe’s reputation as the global leader in efforts to rein in the power of social media companies and other digital platforms.
Zach Meyers, senior researcher at the Center for European Reform think tank, said that granting blanket amnesty based on an online poll is an “arbitrary approach” that is “difficult to reconcile with the Digital Services Act”, a new EU law that will begin to apply. to the major online platforms by mid-2023.
The law aims to protect internet users from illegal content and reduce the spread of harmful but legal content. It requires major social media platforms to be “diligent and objective” in enforcing restrictions, which must be made clear to users in the fine print when they sign up, Meyers said.
The UK is also working on its own online security law.
“Unless Musk quickly moves from a ‘move fast and break things’ approach to a more sober management style, he will be on a collision course with Brussels and London regulators,” Meyers said.
EU officials took to social media to highlight their concerns. The bloc’s 27-country executive commission published a report on Thursday that found Twitter took longer to review hateful content and removed less of it this year compared to 2021.
The report was based on data collected during the spring – before Musk acquired Twitter – as part of an annual evaluation of online platforms’ compliance with the bloc’s voluntary code of conduct on disinformation. It found that Twitter assessed just over half of the notifications it received about illegal hate speech within 24 hours, down from 82% in 2021.
The numbers could still get worse. Since the takeover, Musk has laid off half of the company’s 7,500-person workforce, along with countless contractors responsible for content moderation. Many others have resigned, including the company’s trust and safety manager.
The latest firings at Twitter and the findings of the EU review “are a source of concern,” the bloc’s justice commissioner, Didier Reynders, tweeted Thursday night after a meeting with Twitter executives at the company’s European headquarters in Dublin.
At the meeting, Reynders said he “stressed that we expect Twitter to live up to their voluntary obligations and comply with EU rules,” including the Digital Services Act and the bloc’s strict privacy rules known as the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR.
Vera Jourova, the European Commission’s vice president for values and transparency, tweeted Thursday night that she was concerned by news reports that a “large amount” of Twitter’s European employees were being fired.
“If you want to effectively detect and act against #disinformation and propaganda, this requires resources,” Jourova said. “Especially in the context of Russian disinformation warfare.”