Twitter’s relaunched premium service – which grants blue-check verification labels to anyone willing to pay $8 a month – was unavailable after the social media platform was flooded by a wave of imposter accounts approved by the tech giant.
Before billionaire Elon Musk took control of the social media platform two weeks ago the blue check was granted to celebrities and journalists verified by the platform – precisely to prevent impersonation.
Now, anyone can get one as long as they have a phone, a credit card and $8 (£6.75) a month.
After a fake account registered under the revamped Twitter Blue system tweeted that insulin was free, pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly & Co had to post an apology.
For advertisers who have put their business in Twitter on hold, the fake accounts could be the last straw as Musk’s rocky run atop the platform – laying off half the workforce and triggering high-profile departures – raises questions about its survivability.
There are now two categories of “blue checks” and they look identical.
One includes the accounts verified before Musk took helm.
It notes that “This account is verified because it’s notable in government, news, entertainment, or another designated category.” The other notes that the account subscribes to Twitter Blue.
An email sent to Twitter’s press address went unanswered. The company’s communications department was gutted in the sackings.
On Thursday, Musk tweeted that “too many corrupt legacy Blue ‘verification’ checkmarks exist, so no choice but to remove legacy Blue in coming months.”
Twitter Blue was not available on the platform’s online version, which said signup was only possible on the iPhone version. But the iPhone version did not offer Twitter Blue as an option.
Twitter also once again began adding grey “Official” labels to some prominent accounts. It had rolled out the labels earlier this week, only to kill them a few hours later.
They returned Thursday night, at least for some accounts – including Twitter’s own, as well as big companies like Amazon, Nike and Coca-Cola, before many vanished again.
Celebrities also did not appear to be getting the “official” label.
Elon Musk has cut thousands of staff and a number of key managers overseeing safety and content have also left the company.
UN-backed safety group Tech Against Terrorism has now warned this is causing an erosion of content moderation capabilities that could allow terrorists to return more freely to online platforms.
Adam Hadley, executive director of the group, said: “I urge Elon Musk and Twitter’s senior leadership to reaffirm their commitment to tackling the terrorist use of the internet.
“We recognise that moderation of terrorist content is a significant challenge even for the most sophisticated tech platforms.
“We are concerned that any real or perceived erosion of content moderation capability on the larger social media platforms threatens reverse years of progress and could further embolden terrorists and violent extremists to return.”