The twitterati are in an uproar over Elon Musk’s proposed change to the blue check verification system on Twitter. Musk recently acquired the social media company and took complete control of its operations, firing senior executives and announcing a plan to charge people $8 a month for the coveted blue tick that grants Twitter users status — much to the Unfortunately for many Twitter celebrities.
Their outrage only proves what an excellent idea Musk’s plan is. Opening access to paid review to any user interested in paying for it would go a long way toward growing the platform, supporting users, and defending freedom of expression online.
Twitter has always struggled to monetize the platform — which is why Musk was able to buy it in the first place. While the company enjoys respect and popularity among celebrities, journalists and institutions, this has never translated into profitability. Twitter is inherently advertising-unfriendly and its user base is much smaller than its competitors, with just 248 million monthly active users compared to Facebook’s 2.1 billion.
And it keeps getting worse. Twitter suffered a mass exodus of its most engaged tweeters long before Musk proposed buying Twitter. These users, called heavy tweeters, make up just 10 percent of users but are responsible for 90 percent of the app’s content — but they lose interest.
To fix this problem, Twitter needs to prevent its most active users from leaving the company or attract new users to replace them.
Paid verification is a simple answer. It would create a new class of users motivated to spend time on the platform and fill the void left by those who are no longer interested. Opening up verification to all users instead of just a select elite would help restore trust in the platform and boost those user numbers significantly.
Many of the objectors argue that Twitter verification isn’t about status, it’s about security: verifying that a person is who they say they are. But while verification works this way on other platforms, offering security and identification, these are features Twitter mostly lacks – hence the high percentage of bots. These bots make the platform unfriendly and a bit awkward to use.
Verifying all users, or as many as they are willing to pay, would end the fake account problem practically overnight, as tweets, mentions, and searches would prioritize those who chose to identify themselves through verification. Bots would be way down the list and, in that sense, virtually invisible.
In other words, Musk found a way to monitize an unmonitable platform and solve a problem for Twitter. and solve one of the biggest problems for users in one fell swoop.
But paid verification would also solve another major problem on Twitter: censorship. Twitter is among the most censoring social media platforms. I’ve seen dozens of popular – usually conservative – accounts deleted for flimsy reasons, including the accounts of lawyers, doctors, journalists, politicians, news organizations, charities, nonprofits, presidential candidates, senators, congressmen, YouTubers, streamers, gamers, mesters and more. I’ve seen these people disappear because of wrong thinking, and sometimes nothing at all.
Perhaps worse than the outright bans were the millions of Conservatives who were shadow banned, something we now know was done at the behest of the federal government. Aside from being morally grotesque, this has done extreme damage to Twitter’s relationship with its users.
Again, verification will help: it prevents the random, shady nature of who gets promoted and who goes hidden that has taken place so far, leveling the playing field for an affordable $8 a month.
For all its flaws, Twitter is still a juggernaut in politics, culture, and news. But it has a parasitic relationship with its users, demanding their time, passion, and loyalty, and giving very little in return. Twitter supports a thin line of progressive elites and penalizes users for telling the truth.
We’ve all heard the famous Silicon Valley saying: “If you’re not paying for it, you’re the product.”
Elon Musk is now proposing a paradigm shift. What if we turned our users into customers instead?
For my part I think it’s worth a shot.
Peter Pischke is an independent journalist covering health and disability issues, politics, technology and more. A lifelong nerd and member of the disability community, Pete is also the host of the Happy Warrior Podcast and Substack.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.
https://www.newsweek.com/elon-musk-charging-twitter-verification-good-free-speech-angering-all-right-people-opinion-1756329 Elon Musk Twitter verification fees are good for freedom of speech — and angering all the right people