Profit, privacy and online safety: What's at stake with Twitter verification

© Dado Ruvic, Reuters

The past week has seen Twitter announce – and quickly retract – new rules for authenticating user profiles, notably a controversial proposal to offer “blue check” verification to anyone willing to pay $8 a month. New owner Elon Musk, who on Tuesday set November 29 as the scheme’s relaunch date, has vowed that his proposed changes will democratise the policy on verified accounts and turn a profit, but the bumpy roll-out exposed a fault line at the heart of the social media platform.

Within days of Musk taking over Twitter in October, dramatic structural changes aiming to reduce company losses were under way, chief among them plans to change the site’s account verification process.

The new Twitter Blue service, which offered a visible blue checkmark for an $8 monthly fee, was introduced as a way to add a second revenue stream in addition to advertising. But it was also designed to disrupt the platform to make it better, Musk said.

Instead of relying on internal verification processes to authenticate accounts – and limiting access to high-profile individuals and organisations – Twitter Blue would allow any of the site’s estimated 436 million global users to gain verification for a fee. Twitter Blue would “democratize journalism and empower the voice of the people”, Musk tweeted.

‘Verification is the business’

“Verification is actually the business that Twitter is serving.”

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