Twitter brings back ‘official’ account tag

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Twitter paused its recently announced $8 US blue check subscription service on Friday as fake accounts mushroomed, and new owner Elon Musk brought back the “official” badge to some users of the social media platform.

The coveted blue check mark was previously reserved for verified accounts of politicians, famous personalities, journalists and other public figures. But a subscription option, open to anyone prepared to pay, was rolled out earlier this week to help Twitter grow revenue as Musk fights to retain advertisers.

The flip-flop is part of a chaotic two weeks at Twitter since Musk completed his $44 billion US acquisition. Musk has fired nearly half of Twitter’s workforce, removed its board and senior executives, and raised the prospect of Twitter’s bankruptcy. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission said on Thursday it was watching Twitter with “deep concern.”

Several users reported on Friday that the new subscription option for the blue verification check mark had disappeared, while a source told Reuters the offering has been dropped.

Twitter did not reply to a request for comment.

Fake accounts

Fake accounts of several big brands have popped up with the blue tick, including Musk’s Tesla and SpaceX as well as Roblox, Nestlé and Lockheed Martin.

“To combat impersonation, we’ve added an ‘Official’ label to some accounts,” Twitter’s support account tweeted on Friday.

Musk on Wednesday tweeted he had “killed” the new label, just hours after rolling it out.

Drug-maker Eli Lilly and Co issued an apology after an imposter account tweeted that insulin would be free, amid political backlash and scrutiny into the high prices of the medicine.

“We apologize to those who have been served a misleading message from a fake Lilly account,” the company said, reiterating the name of its Twitter handle.

Among other examples, a number of misleading Tweets about Tesla from a verified account with the same profile picture as the company’s official account were being circulated on the platform. 

“Twitter has over the past several years worked to try to improve that [misinformation]. And it seems like Elon Musk has unravelled it within a matter of weeks,” A.J. Bauer, a professor at the University of Alabama said.

In Canada, users got an error message with a note that said Twitter Blue will not be available in the country in the future. 

Bankruptcy fears raised by Musk

Musk had said on Sunday that Twitter users engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying it as a “parody” account will be permanently suspended without a warning.

While some had disclosed it was a parody account in their description, several other fake brand accounts including that of Nintendo and BP were suspended.

WATCH | Elon Musk begins plan to cut half Twitter’s global workforce:

Elon Musk begins plan to cut half Twitter’s global workforce

Newly minted Twitter CEO Elon Musk has begun pushing forward with his plan to cut as much as half of the company’s global workforce, beginning with widespread layoffs at the social media company on Friday.

On Thursday, Musk raised the possibility of the social media platform going bankrupt.

The billionaire, on his first mass call with employees, said he could not rule out bankruptcy, Bloomberg News reported, two weeks after he bought the platform for $44 billion US — a deal that credit experts say has left Twitter’s finances in a precarious position.

Earlier in the day, in his first company-wide email, Musk warned that Twitter would not be able to “survive the upcoming economic downturn” if it fails to boost subscription revenue to offset falling advertising income, three people who have seen the message told Reuters.

In his first meeting with many employees at Twitter on Thursday afternoon, Musk warned the company may lose billions of dollars next year, the Information reported.

Elon Musk’s Twitter account verification badge is seen in this illustration on Nov. 4. The company says it has reintroduced grey ‘official’ verification badges, just two days after dropping them. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

Musk added in the email to workers that remote work would no longer be allowed and that they would be expected in the office for at least 40 hours per week.

Musk ruthlessly moved to clean house after taking over on Oct. 27 and has said the company was losing more than $4 million US a day, largely because advertisers started fleeing once he took over. Twitter has $13 billion US in debt after the deal and faces interest payments totalling close to $1.2 billion US in the next 12 months. The payments exceed Twitter’s most recently disclosed cash flow, which amounted to $1.1 billion US as of the end of June.

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