Seen the latest Twitter saga? Elon Musk’s going to make (or let, depending on how you look at it) people pay £7 a month in exchange for verification on the platform. And he’s serious, having told half the workforce to get the update done by a ridiculously tight deadline or risk being fired. The other half have already been fired (although Musk is apparently now trying to re-hire some of them because he’s realised the company needs them). Twitter is now a cesspit both internally and externally, but the blue tick debacle in particular has riled people up in all the ways a bunch of code on a screen can.
In case you didn’t already know, verification is that blue tick next to a person’s username. The point of it is to let “people know that an account of public interest is authentic”, according to Twitter. Basically, it proves that a person is who they say they are on the website, and not some @90210 who has decided to change their username to @joeblden (with a sneaky lower-case L) in order to tell North Korea “to nuke deez nuts” or something. To get serious for half a second, allowing anyone to pay for verification is a real backward step in terms of preventing misinformation. What happens if @joebIden looks legit and those nuts eventually get nuked?
Well, now the privilege of potentially triggering an international relations crisis will cost a mere £7 a month for anyone that wants it. This is a small price to pay for someone with an agenda and an inconvenience for anyone who merely wants to seem semi-notable online. I predict the charge will create three sets of people. There will be those who claim they need a blue tick for their career and will be annoyed if they can’t prove it’s their “official” account tweeting links to their NFT drop. There will be scammers and saddos who cop a tick to feel good or commit fraud. And then there will be normies, both of no-tick and pre-existing-tick heritage, that forgo verification and just carry on with their life.
Previously, anyone could request verification on formerly-Jack Dorsey’s Twitter free of charge. But special attention was given to people who could provide “links to three or more news articles about your organisation published by an already verified news organisation within the 6 months prior to applying.” This essentially meant that business people, politicians, influencers, celebrities, media-types and public figures of some kind were more likely to be verified.
Journalists are a decent portion of the verified cohort and I am one of them. When the tick first popped up, I felt like I maybe had some authority for a small while, as though I could tweet something and be a little more believed. Soon after, though, I didn’t really care.
I won’t be paying £84 a year to keep that artificial air of authority. The fact that it’s just a little tick aside, if you can pay your way to social media clout, surely the entire significance of it is ruined? It’s like letting artists pay for a Grammy.
If the tick leaves my life, it will leave passively. It will die in my sleep, the best way to go. Because let’s face it, all social media is controlled by badly-dressed bores that wear light-washed bootcut denim and are into playing with VR, surfing badly and crossfit. Living under their rules is a dumb choice.
On Thursday night, Musk decided he’ll give high-profile people a “secondary tag”, like the flag you find under the username on The President of the United States Twitter account. There’s little news on who exactly will qualify as high-profile. What is more obvious is that we’ll have to subject ourselves to frequent in-situ changes (politically, we decided to call them U‑Turns this year) while the multi-millionaire inheritor is in charge of Twitter, and so will the workers. All this over the status we’ve attributed to a little piece of code that generates a white tick in a blue circle.