Twitter verification has never been an easy process. Although the application isn’t too taxing, actually getting that acclaimed blue tick is as easy as catching smoke. Users can be well-known in their fields and still get rejected. While frustrating, and the topic of many a Twitter thread, it’s a transactionless system. We apply, we hope, we get accepted or rejected (mainly rejected).
But all that looks set to change. Cue a lot of RIP Twitter posts as we mourn our loss and prepare for the beasts of capitalism to take hold in spectacular fashion. If Elon Musk gets his way, verification will be a cash for checks system as the greed of one of the richest men on Earth continues to exceed expectations.
In truth, us Twitter devotees aren’t in the least bit surprised that Musk is considering this “overhaul”, with the billionaire known for throwing the cat among the pigeons to generate intrigue. However, while we’re not surprised, we are disappointed.
We’ve only had a few days to acclimatise to the finalisation of his acquisition, and he’s already planning to come in quicker than Miley Cyrus to leave only the debris of crumbling blue ticks behind. I believe Kathy Burke has said it best with her iconic “Musk can f*** off” tweet, perfectly encapsulating how many of us are feeling.
Currently, to apply for a blue tick you pray to the Twitter verification gods, using the tomes of your recent work and/or status. I’m only partially joking, as anyone who’s gone through the process will vouch for. For me, I bombarded Twitter with as many of my article URLs as possible in the vain hope they’d recognise me as the real Emma Flint. Fortunately, my approach worked. But even if it hadn’t, I’d have been able to try again after a 30-day waiting period.
Don’t misunderstand me, this is by no means a perfect system. I often see many of my fellow creatives venting their frustrations at being rejected again, and rightly so. Ever since the initiative launched in 2009, to combat rising concerns surrounding impersonation, verification has operated with a questionable lens. One which is heavily skewered to favour cis white people above all others. The system isn’t quite broken, nor is it working. We all know something’s got to give, though I doubt it’s the sound of Musk adding more coins to his money bin.
Nonetheless, while nobody would deny that Twitter verification needs a transformation, those same people would also argue that a subscription service isn’t the best course of action. Not least of all because it doesn’t benefit anyone besides the extremely wealthy man in charge. Yes, there’s the argument that fewer rejections will happen if money is exchanged, with people previously screaming into the void finally heard. However, paying for a blue tick simply moves the problem from one area to another; it doesn’t eliminate it.
Think about it. A lot of users won’t want to pay. Who can blame them? The suggested monthly fee of $20 (approximately £17) is a steep ask regardless of your income; a Netflix subscription is between £6.99 and £10.99 a month, and for that you get a lot of content. Even if you use the excuse that a blue tick generates more work for you, $20 is a substantial pay-out for something based on assumptions only.
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Consequently, the rise in fake and/or cloned accounts is going to increase. With more of us unverified, it leaves us open to deception. Ironic really, considering this potential overhaul is being peddled under the guise of eliminating bot accounts, as well as attempting to make verification fair. I’m not exactly sure how charging people for what was once free is fair. But maybe I just lack the entrepreneurial vision.
Let’s call this what it really is: the monetisation of a service designed to help, not hinder. Granted, it often falls short of that mark in its current state, but at least it does so without costing us a penny. It’s a bitter-sweet state of affairs, but it’s one that many of us will gladly take over having to pay a possible $240 annual fee.
Also, bartering your way to a blue tick doesn’t feel satisfying. It’s a bit like paying to win a competition; it feels shady and underhanded. And as for the eliminating bots angle, considering most genuine users can’t get verified without applying several times, I can assure you that bots rarely ever make the grade. Maybe one or two occasionally slip through, though I’ve never seen it.
It would be nice to think Musk will listen to all the feedback he’s currently receiving. However, considering this is a man who is all for “freedom of speech”, even if it causes harm, I doubt it. So for now, I will savour my little blue tick for as long as it has left. Although I’ll miss it, I refuse to allow the richest man on earth to swindle me.