Ester Crawford, Twitter’s product manager, revealed on Tuesday how the social network’s new verification system will work following the company’s acquisition by Elon Musk in October.
Some initially verified accounts will soon sport an “official” label, she said, while any user who pays $7.99 a month for Twitter Blue, the company’s subscription product, will sport a blue tick. She did not specify what it takes to gain “official” status. Musk, who currently serves as Twitter’s CEO and sole director, has criticized Twitter’s original verification system, which gave reputable users a blue tick or acknowledgment likely to be played by bad actors.
Blue checks were originally used to verify the identities of government officials, politicians, celebrities, journalists, executives, medical professionals, and organizations whose identities the company had verified. Musk himself has benefited from the Twitter verification tick. The same is true for countless journalists, including at CNBC.
In the past, the blue tick let other Twitter users know that the content posted by the account with the blue tick originated with the person or organization displayed on that Twitter profile. At least some users whose accounts carried the verification mark had to provide the platform with personal information for identity verification, such as employer information, a phone number, or a copy of their driver’s license. Other social networks, like Meta’s Facebook and Instagram, have similar verification systems.
Musk’s plans for the new “verification” system have drawn widespread criticism. Comedians, influencers, and actors including Valerie Bertinelli, Kathy Griffin, Ethan Klein, Sarah Silverman, and Rich Sommer all appeared to change their Twitter display names on their verified profiles to “Elon Musk” without indicating that they were parodying his account.
A technologist and USC Annenberg Civic Media Fellow, Sydette Harry, told CNBC ahead of the new Twitter Blue launch that the company had problems thwarting harassment, hate speech, misinformation, and impersonation long before the Tesla CEO took over. For example, the company has never managed to effectively protect black and other minority users, especially those who were not celebrities or public figures with a blue check.
She added, of the new verification system, “This new method is going to be theatrically bad, because once people pay for verification, it takes the issue from a community moderation problem, which can be expected on a free or ad-supported service, to a customer-service problem.” She also said that she’s concerned that Musk seems focused on U.S. users, despite the service’s large international customer base.