After purchasing Twitter for $44 billion, Elon Musk immediately began to roll out changes to the social networking platform. One of those changes was the ability for anyone on the platform to subscribe to Twitter Blue for $8 a month and gain the ability to add a verified check mark next to their name.
Before Musk gave users the ability to do this, the only accounts with verified check marks were notable in news, sports, politics or entertainment. The reason accounts received verification under the previous Twitter regime was fairly obvious, as it made it simple to decipher the difference between reputable sources of information and accounts that are just internet trolls. Now that anyone who can afford to pay $8 can verify their accounts, the days of simply relying on the check mark for reputable news are long gone.
It did not take more than a couple of minutes for this verification system to completely backfire, as Twitter immediately saw countless parody accounts made with the intent of trolling the internet.
Some of the fake verified accounts were harmless, such as an account pretending to be NBA All-Star LeBron James that tweeted “I am officially requesting a trade. Thank you #LakerNation for all the support through the years.” Another was an account pretending to be Nintendo that tweeted a picture of Mario giving the middle finger.
Other fake accounts decided to poke fun at some of the major issues in our society. One account pretending to be Eli Lilly and Company—a pharmaceutical company—tweeted “We are excited to announce insulin is free now.” Someone impersonating former President George W. Bush sent a tweet that said “I miss killing Iraqis.”
It took a mere couple of hours for Musk to realize this system needed to change, as he sent out a thread of tweets that read “Going forward, accounts engaged in parody must include ‘parody’ in their name… To be more precise, accounts doing parody impersonations. Basically, tricking people is not ok.”
It’s almost as if Musk finally realized the stupidity of this idea. Right before the new verification system went into place, Musk tweeted “Twitter needs to become by far the most accurate source of information about the world. That’s our mission.” If that’s truly his mission, Musk has done a horrendous job.
Over the last decade, Twitter has become a place many people get their news from. I agree with Musk that it is important for the social media network to be an accurate source of information, as the platform has over 238 million daily active users.
While the fake tweets may be relatively harmless and fun right now, the most concerning aspect is what will potentially happen during the 2024 presidential election. We’ve already seen how a social media app can influence election results, with Facebook playing a role in the 2016 election of President Donald Trump. Now that anyone can verify their account, there’s no way to predict the amount of misinformation that will come when it is time to vote in 2024.
Since the disastrous rollout of Twitter Blue, there have been some measures put in place that lets users differentiate between real verified accounts and accounts that pay for their check mark. If you click on the check mark, you will get a message that says either “This account is verified because it’s notable in government, news, entertainment, or another designated category” or “This account is verified because it’s subscribed to Twitter Blue.”
But why make this an issue in the first place? Why put a price on journalistic integrity in a world where fake news is force-fed down the throats of everyone with social media? If Musk sincerely meant that Twitter needs to become the most accurate source of information in the world, he must put a stop to Twitter Blue’s paid verification before it has disastrous effects.
Photo courtesy of Steve Jurvetson, Wikipedia.