Elon Musk is considering charging Twitter users $20 (£17) a month or $240 a year for a blue tick on their account as the world’s richest person prepares an overhaul of the social media platform.
The Tesla chief executive is planning changes to Twitter’s Blue subscription service, according to the tech newsletter Platformer, including raising the $4.99-a-month fee to $19.99.
Users verified by the platform – who carry a blue tick flagging them as an authentic source – would have 90 days to sign up to Blue or lose their check mark.
Musk did not comment directly on the story but tweeted to his more than 110 million followers on Sunday that “the whole verification process is being revamped right now”.
He also flagged a Twitter poll launched yesterday morning asking Twitter users how much they would pay a month for a blue tick: $5; $10; $15; or “wouldn’t pay”.
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The poll was set up 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 since the $44bn takeover.
A basic subscription on Netflix costs $6.99 or £4.99 a month.
An overwhelming majority of respondents to the poll said they wouldn’t pay at all, but a substantial minority indicated they would.
There are about 400,000 verified users on Twitter, as of 2021, but the programme has long been plagued with problems.
Introduced in 2009 as a response to a growing wave of celebrity concerns about impersonation, the blue tick rapidly came to be a status symbol, rather than simple proof of identity.
Twitter to resume verification program after pausing it for several years.
That led to Twitter withdrawing the verification status from controversial users such as the rightwing personality Milo Yiannopoulos, facing criticism for granting it to white supremacists, and eventually pausing the programme for several years before resuming it in 2021.
Even if every extant verified Twitter user paid the fee, the annual income would be less than a tenth of the estimated $1bn in interest payments due on Musk’s loans to buy the site.
But Musk may have bigger aims: one of his stated goals upon offering to acquire Twitter in April was to “verify all the humans”, and expanding its niche subscription service could provide significant revenue.
The Washington Post also reported yesterday that Musk was planning to lay off 25% of Twitter’s 7,500 staff in a first round of job cuts at the San Francisco-based company.