Elon Musk set to relaunch Twitter Blue with higher price for iPhone users

Twitter headquarters is shown in San Francisco on Nov. 4, 2022. (Jeff Chiu/AP)

Twitter headquarters is shown in San Francisco on Nov. 4, 2022. (Jeff Chiu/AP)

Updated December 12, 2022 at 12:22 PM ET

Twitter has said it will relaunch a service dubbed Twitter Blue on Monday, where users can pay a monthly fee for a blue checkmark, along with the ability to edit tweets and upload high-quality video.

Apple users, however, are expected to be charged more.

The company anticipates that the revamped service will cost $8 a month on the web, or $11 a month if purchased through an app on iPhones and iPads, where in-app transactions are processed through Apple’s App Store, which generally levies a 30% commission.

The pricing announcement follow sharp words from Musk leveled at Apple over its so-called “Apple tax,” a longtime pain point for app developers and cause of concern for regulators around the world who have viewed the fee as excessive and financially damaging to Apple’s rivals. Musk has since claimed his row with Apple was resolved following a meeting with the company’s chief executive, Tim Cook at Apple’s Cupertino headquarters.

Android users can access Twitter Blue by purchasing it through a web browser, according to Esther Crawford, director of product management at Twitter.

Gold and gray checkmarks added to blue

Twitter announced it will introduce a color-coded system for people, companies and governments. Musk says gold will be for companies; grey for governments and a blue check for individuals.

Rather than simply giving blue checkmarks to all individual subscribers, there will be a process, or as Crawford put it in a tweet this past weekend, “a review step before applying a blue checkmark to an account as one of our new steps to combat impersonation.”

This is an about-face for the company. Before Musk bought Twitter in October, the blue checkmarks signified that the company had verified a user’s identity. When Musk first attempted to include the blue checkmarks as part of the subscription, it unleashed havoc. Twitter was flooded with fake accounts. Advertisers, politicians and even Musk himself found themselves being impersonated. The chaos forced the billionaire to put the service on pause after just two days.

When Musk first conceived of the plan to let people buy the once-coveted and restricted blue checkmarks, he was met with internal resistance from Twitter’s trust and safety experts. They feared the move would be weaponized by those looking to spread disinformation, including repressive regimes hoping to disseminate propaganda.

Musk ignored them. Twitter’s Trust and Safety team, like others at the company, has been gutted through layoffs and resignations.

Musk views Twitter Blue as part of his mission to make money on the platform in ways other than advertising, which accounts for about 90% of Twitter’s revenue. But since Musk’s chaotic reign began in late October, major advertisers have been fleeing in droves.

Twitter has long struggled to grow its service the way larger competitors like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok have and, even before Musk took over, the company’s advertising business had been far from robust.

Musk has floated bankruptcy as a possible option for Twitter.

Twitter: Users temporarily lose check when profile is changed

Musk has said before an account can receive a checkmark, it will be manually verified, though he has not fully explained how the process would work. But the company did say if a subscriber changes their handle, display name, or photo, they will temporary lose their checkmark until the profile authenticity is confirmed.

Twitter has not answered questions about whether it still has the resources to take on such a daunting task after laying off more than half of the company’s staff.

“With a reduced workforce, it remains to be seen if it will be possible to prevent fraud, impersonation and scams with their new identity verification methodology,” Rachel Tobac, the CEO of the cybersecurity firm SocialProof Security, previously told NPR. “Scammers will quickly determine how they can overwhelm or manipulate the identity verification system to get ‘authenticated’ as an entity that they are not.”

Twitter, which no longer has a communications staff, did not respond to a request for comment.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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