- Elon Musk finally bought Twitter on October 27 for $44 billion after trying to walk away.
- He has announced plans to make verified users pay $8 a month for blue checks.
- Social media experts warned the plans could risk allowing more scams and misinformation on Twitter.
Twitter has been under Elon Musk’s control for barely a week, and as well as laying off thousands of workers, it appears his plan to start charging verified users $8 a month is already underway.
But his push to improve Twitter’s finances has prompted social media experts to warn he risks allowing more scams and disinformation on the platform.
“Twitter as we know it is dead,” Mark Weinstein, the founder of MeWe, a social networking app with 20 million users, tells Insider. “The company is now owned and run by one person. There is no other example of a mainstream social media company that’s owned and controlled by one person.”
Kit Chapman of Falmouth University’s School of Communication in southwest England, tells Insider that the risks of making users pay for verification are far greater than just the right to boast about a blue check.
“Verification has nothing to do with wealth, and everything to do with credibility,” he says. “Many journalists can’t afford to pay almost $100 [a year] to prove who they are, and as soon as stories begin to spread beyond a user’s immediate followers, this can have a devastating effect on recognizing trustworthy, reputable sources.”
“The second problem is that, by extending verification to everyone, it’s possible to spoof accounts: anyone can change their photo and name to appear to be, say, Elon Musk – imagine that happening with a verified sticker next to it. You’d have to be extra careful not to get taken in by a fake.”
Hate speech has always been a problem for social media platforms, Chapman says. “Social media is rife with coded language, false accounts set up to spread disinformation, and cunning use of free-speech to misdirect and derail honest debate.”
As Chapman puts it, free speech advocates love to talk about speech “as if it is somehow disconnected from action”, but the recent attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband and the false claims that the Manchester Arena attack was a staged hoax show that is not the case.
Weinstein says some players are only too willing to pay for bots and trolls, and to boost tweets that “disrupt healthy conversations by spreading misinformation and inflammatory content on Twitter … this could actually undermine free speech on Twitter.”
Neither will paying for verification bring an end to bots, Weinstein adds. “Instead, it opens a new chapter in the decade-old cat-and-mouse game between Twitter, bots, and trolls. The best new offensive on this front is to eliminate amplification and tweet-boosting.”