Twitter's Blue Check Verification system is about to have about as much value as a sticker someone hands a child for behaving at the dentist.
While we've known about Twitter owner and "Chief Twit" Elon Musk's plan to democratize Twitter by selling Blue verification checks, it wasn't until Wednesday that we understood the true dimensions - or lack of dimension - of his plan.
Twitter's Blue Check will have no discernable verification system besides payment. Here's how Musk characterized it when asked during a Twitter Spaces discussion how Twitter's Blue Check system would work: "Someone has to have their phone, a credit card, and $8 a month. That's the bar."
Anyone who has these things - which is the majority of the adult population - can get a Blue Check.
This means Twitter's existing system for identity verification is now meaningless or at least worthless. All a Blue Check will prove is that you own a phone, have a credit card, and can afford to pay $ 8 a month for the privilege of having Twitter Blue, Twitter's subscription service that's now tied to the Blue Check.
Phase one of moving Blue Checks behind a paywall is live. Not sure how Twitter has ID'd "Official" accounts, but I guess I'm glad to see @techradar is one of them. Wonder how long we maintain two checks. pic.twitter.com/GYbgrwdTA5November 9, 2022
Musk's crystal clear explanation came just hours after a system-wide test - at least we think it was a test - where brands, media personalities, government officials, and others suddenly got a new, gray "Official" Twitter badge.
The dull sticker arrived without warning and appeared to be applied somewhat haphazardly. This author had it, as did TechRadar's Twitter account. So did The White House account, but not Vice President Kamala Harris or President Joe Biden.
One hour after those stickers appeared, they were gone.
Musk quickly owned up to a rather public test and appeared to admit that it was a mistake.
Please note that Twitter will do lots of dumb things in coming months. We will keep what works & change what doesn’t.November 9, 2022
For all the confusion this caused, Musk's Spaces conversation proved illuminating. The Tesla CEO has clear goals for Twitter like, "Moving civilization in a positive direction where people think is a good thing for the world, and the evidence for that will be new users signing up and more people using Twitter for longer."
And yet, so much of what Musk is planning for Twitter sounds like a big experiment.
Musk said he understands how some people are taking a wait-and-see approach but insists that the best way to understand what's happening with Twitter is to use it.
https://t.co/05QY6u4FSDNovember 9, 2022
In one irony-free moment, Musk encouraged brands, which may or may not want to pay for the now meaningless Blue Check, to "tweet more, executives should tweet more. I would encourage people to be more adventurous. It's certainly what I've done with SpaceX and Tesla, and it's worked out quite well."
I nearly choked on my lunch when I heard this, remembering how his own Tesla-related Tweets got Musk in deep hot water with the Securities Exchange Commission.
For whatever you think of Musk, he does come across as earnest. I think he really believes this public square thing can work. He's not actively trying to disenfranchise anyone (though he may be anyway), Musk just believes a level playing field is best, even if not everyone is necessarily on the same level when it comes to information and expertise.
Musk, for instance, doesn't appear to think much of the journalists who have long been among Twitter's most active members and ardent fans, noting how media reports and what people see on the ground may not always jibe. He wants everyone on Twitter to have a voice. "I do think we should be empowering citizen journalism. We should elevate the people and give voice to the people. Vox populi Vox dei [Latin for "Voice of the people"]."
It's worth noting that nothing has ever stopped people from live tweeting news as they see it, with or without a blue check, and some of those reports have proven historic.
As for how Musk will build a powerful and financially stable platform for all citizen journalists, he appears very interested in video, creator monetization, and content-adjacent ads. However, much of what he wants to do may require significant architectural changes and none of that is coming any time soon.
In the near term, though, Musk's first big play, demolishing the value of Blue Checks to somehow cash in on Blue Checks, is almost underway. It might work. It might not. In the meantime, Musk offered this evergreen comment:
"Look, I'm open to ideas."
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A 35-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of PCMag.com and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.
Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, Fox News, Fox Business, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.