Elon Musk has indicated that a verified account on Twitter in the future could cost $8 a month, despite facing a user backlash over proposals to charge for the feature.
The new owner of Twitter described the current system for allocating blue check marks – which verify a user as a trustworthy source – as “bullshit” in a Twitter post to his more than 110 million followers on Tuesday.
“Twitter’s current lords & peasants system for who has or doesn’t have a blue checkmark is bullshit. Power to the people! Blue for $8/month,” he wrote, suggesting that a tick could be given to accounts that subscribe to the platform’s premium service, Blue, for $8 a month.
Musk added that the price could fluctuate according to country. Twitter’s Blue service operates in a handful of countries: the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It costs $4.99 a month in the US and in its current guise the service offers a narrower suite of perks such as being able to undo tweets.
In the Twitter thread, Musk said subscribers to the new Blue service would also get priority in replies, mentions and search, which he said was “essential to defeat” spam accounts. Users will also see half as many adverts and will be able to post long video and audio clips. No timing for the changes was announced.
The changes would affect about 400,000 blue tick accounts on Twitter. Advertising, which would be reduced for Blue subscribers under the plans, accounts for 90% of Twitter’s $5bn in annual revenue.
Hours before, Musk justified his plans to charge for verification by tweeting that “we need to pay the bills somehow”, adding that it was the only way to “defeat the bots and trolls”. Musk made the comments in an exchange with the author Stephen King, who had tweeted that if a $20 tick charge were implemented “I’m gone like Enron.” “How about $8?” Musk responded.
Musk’s plans to charge for verification had leaked on Monday, sparking a backlash from some users including King. A Twitter poll floating the idea published by the tech investor Jason Calacanis, a Musk associate who is part of a team brought in by the multibillionaire to help run the business, had an 80% response for the option “wouldn’t pay”.
One of Elon Musk’s financial backers in the Twitter takeover supported the $8 proposal on Tuesday. The founder and chief executive of Binance, the cryptocurrency exchange that has put $500m into the deal, said he backed the plan because it would tackle vexatious automated accounts – or bots.
“We are supportive of that,” Changpeng Zhao told the Web Summit in Lisbon. “We think that’s a great idea.” Zhao said he supported “anything that can reduce the bots”.
Asked why Binance was investing in the deal, Zhao said: “We want to be extremely supportive of free speech. We are hoping to increase the freedom of money and free speech comes before the freedom of money.”
The blue tick verification process was brought in by Twitter in 2009 in response to celebrity concerns about impersonation. The programme ran into trouble when Twitter withdrew the verification status from controversial users such as the rightwing personality Milo Yiannopoulos and it was paused for a number of years before resuming it in 2021.
Musk closed a $44bn deal to buy Twitter on Thursday last week and has wasted no time in ringing the changes. He fired senior executives including the CEO, Parag Agrawal, and made himself sole director of the company. He has also reportedly installed a team of associates to help him run the business including Calacanis and his personal attorney, as well as drafting in employees at Tesla to look at Twitter’s code.
The exodus continued this week as more senior staff announced their departures. Sarah Personette, who was chief customer officer and ad boss, tweeted on Tuesday that she resigned last week, adding to advertisers’ uncertainty over how the social media company will change under Musk.
Dalana Brand, the company’s chief people and diversity officer, announced on Tuesday in a LinkedIn post that she had resigned last week as well. General manager for core technologies Nick Caldwell confirmed his departure on Twitter, changing his profile bio to “former Twitter exec” by Monday night.
Chief marketing officer Leslie Berland, Twitter’s head of product Jay Sullivan, and its vice president of global sales, Jean-Philippe Maheu, have also left, a person with knowledge of the matter told Reuters. It was not immediately clear whether they quit or were asked to leave.