Elon Musk no longer wants to verify the identity of certified accounts, and that’s unfortunate
Elon Musk paid too much for Twitter. He has to find money. One of his leads? Stop checking the identity of the person requesting their blue badge. A disaster for the social network and a step back from the current system.
It was a disastrous decision, if accurate. According to information obtained by the New York Times on November 3, 2022, the new Twitter certification system that Elon Musk wants will skip the verification of the Internet user’s identity. This, though, is absolutely essential to ensure that the person is who they claim to be.
The daily American indicates that it was able to consult internal documents from the social network, and exchange with two individuals who are aware of the current construction sites. It turns out that subscribers don’t need to authenticate their identity to get that famous little blue tick. It is enough to line up eight monthly dollars to collect the badge.
Another indication given by the newspaper: this new service will start on November 7, 2022, first in some countries (United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). Other countries will inevitably follow, but no timetable or name has been mentioned for the moment. Worldwide, there are more than 430,000 certified people.
No more Twitter identity verification?
When the service is launched, it added that people and entities that already have the certification will not be lost immediately. There is a grace period – the duration of which is not specified – during which existing certified accounts will deal with accounts that have purchased their badge. Then, the former will be encouraged to pay like the latter so that nothing is lost.
If it is confirmed, this decision indicates one thing: Twitter is in a very bad position. Its financial situation is dire and Elon Musk bought the site at an exorbitant price – 44 billion dollars in total, including 13 billion through loans from investment banks.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Twitter generated annual revenue of about $700 million over the past five years — including before taxes. Analysts believe that with the operation of Elon Musk, the annual burden of interest to be paid will increase from 51 million dollars (value for 2021) to more than one billion. Accounts are not good for the businessman.
In fact, Elon Musk really needs to get more money into the machine in order to sustain the operation and give Twitter a future. To such an extent, moreover, that the billionaire found himself in a remarkable sequence where he gave the impression of directly negotiating the price with the writer Stephen King, against charging this certification.
The lack of identity verification in this new system appears to be a simple strategy to bring in as much money as possible quickly, by limiting the safeguards at the entrance. The fewer the hurdles, the more people are willing to pay $8 for the blue mark — and some associated perks.
Problem: what he can get on one side, with subscriptions to get certification, risks to lose on the other side. Advertisers such as General Motors and Ford (automaker rivals to Tesla, another Elon Musk company) have suspended advertising investments on Twitter, among other things because of plans to reduce -moderate.
At the same time, a movement was formed to force the entrepreneur, to prevent him from turning Twitter into a rat race where moderation has no subscribers. The 40 organizations called on the main advertisers to weigh in on the interested party obliging him to respect the rules that protect marks, under the penalty of stopping advertising.
This obsession with quick money-making is likely to have significant consequences for Twitter’s stability and performance. A large number of employees will be laid off, starting November 4, which will involve moderating the site, if these teams are affected. We’re talking about at least 50% of Twitter’s 7,500 employees.
As for the certification system that Musk wants, it will inevitably encourage identity theft, scams and misinformation. Despite its limitations, identity verification serves at least to prevent some impersonations. It also controls the field in which the person practices (journalism, sport, cinema, politics, economics, science, etc.).
Believing that a charge of 8 euros per month (or more) will act as a brake on those spreading false information is pure fantasy. We know there is a whole black market of fake accounts, fake subscribers, fake certifications. These costs are sometimes a simple line of accounting and are only an anecdotal cost in the face of certain influence objectives.
Of course, all these phenomena already exist in the current system – there are many examples, starting with Donald Trump, who has created fake news on an industrial scale, on purpose. But at least there was a barrier, no doubt imperfect, that served as a bulwark. There, the floodgates are wide open. There is no more dike.