After closing his acquisition of Twitter on Friday, Elon Musk wasted no time reshaping the platform he once described as „the digital townsquare.“ Aside from organizational changes - Musk fired the CEO and CFO and reportedly plans to cut 25% of Twitter‘s workforce - his biggest initiative so far is the plan to charge users $8 per month for the famous blue checkmark, i.e. verification.
Introduced in 2009 to address the growing problem of impersonator accounts on the platform, Twitter’s verification system was originally tested for public officials, agencies, artists, athletes, and other well-known individuals at risk of impersonation, but eventually rolled out for businesses and brands as well. The “blue check” quickly became a coveted seal of approval on the platform, even though the verification process remained intransparent and a constant source of controversy. In May 2021, the company relaunched its verification program, setting new, supposedly more transparent guidelines for who is eligible and who is not.
That wasn’t enough for Musk though, who called the “current lords & peasants system” for verification “bullshit” in a series of tweets. “Power to the people! Blue for $8/month,” he wrote, suggesting that the coveted blue check would now be available to anyone willing to cough up the monthly fee. The de-facto subscription would come with a series of other benefits, he added, including priority in replies, mentions and search, which could fundamentally change the way Twitter works.
As the following chart shows, Twitter currently has more than 420,000 verified accounts, which is less than 0.2 percent of its almost 240 million daily active users. It remains to be seen whether this number will climb steeply under Musk’s new “verification” rules. Some early polls on the platform suggest that willingness to pay for the blue check is very limited, but that might well change once the feature is actually implemented.