Well, at Least Elon Musk Postponed Twitter’s Full Destruction Until After Today’s Election
Elon Musk’s new pay-for-play verification system was reportedly scheduled to hit Twitter early this week. Under the revamped “Twitter Blue” model, users will have to pay $7.99 a month not just to get that blue check but, by all accounts, have access to an even remotely workable version of the site. The idea is that the paid version of the site will filter out spam, but also seems to rely on the (completely ridiculous) idea that spammers, bots, and trolls won’t pay for verification. (Meanwhile, the free version will likely be overrun by spam, with posts from actual users ending up totally buried by the algorithm.)
Fortunately, according to the New York Times, Twitter is postponing that rollout until after Tuesday’s midterm elections. That is immensely good news for anyone who isn’t into seeing public spaces drowning in disinformation. In recent days, we’ve gotten a clear look at just how chaotic things will be when anyone can buy verification for $8, and not even Musk himself could handle it.
Just one week after declaring “Comedy is now legal on Twitter,” Musk instituted a new policy mass-banning anyone engaging in parody on the platform—specifically anyone parodying him. Verified accounts changed their user names and profile/header images to match Musk’s and tweeted all sorts of things guaranteed to get under his skin, from encouraging his followers to vote for Democrats to mourning the loss of his good friend Jeffrey Epstein. (Importantly, those users’ unique handles were still clearly visible in each tweet.)
In response, Musk tweeted that anyone engaging in parody without clearly labeling their accounts as being parody would be permanently suspended, but even accounts with that label clearly displayed got caught up in the banning, with Musk appearing to make up new community guidelines on the fly in an effort to squash those mocking him.
Rich Sommer, best known for his work on Mad Men, was one of those heroes who was permanently suspended for parodying Musk, as you can see in those screenshots above.
In a statement to NBC News, Sommer explains perfectly how this “parody” account debacle is a clear portent of what’s to come after Musk implements his $8 plan.
“I’m not mad at them for suspending me. I broke the rules. But if people genuinely thought I was Elon Musk with ‘@richsommer’ right there at the top of each tweet, imagine how difficult will be to discern the veracity of anyone’s identity once they sell a blue check to anyone with eight bucks,” he told the outlet.
It is genuinely really good news that Musk’s new verification system didn’t hit before Tuesday’s election. The potential for fraud and massive disinformation campaigns was limitless. We’ll still have to deal with those horrors every day moving forward, but at least we dodged this one last bullet.
(image: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue)
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]