Twitter's new owner billionaire Elon Musk has announced that the verification blue tick in front of a user's name that authenticates the account will be charged eight dollars per month, prompting outrage and disbelief among some longtime users.
Musk, the world's richest person, acquired Twitter in a whopping USD 44 billion deal on October 27.
He also fired the social media company's four top executives, including CEO Parag Agrawal and legal executive Vijaya Gadde.
“Power to the people! Blue for USD 8 per month,” he tweeted Tuesday, adding that the price is adjusted by country proportionate to purchasing power parity.
With that price, he said, users will also get priority in replies, mentions, and searches, which he said is essential to defeating spam/scams, as well as the ability to post long video and audio, half as many ads, and paywall bypass for publishers willing to work with the social media company.
Musk, 51, said the monthly payments from users for the blue tick “will also give Twitter a revenue stream to reward content creators”.
There will be a secondary tag below the name for someone who is a public figure, which is already the case for politicians, he further said.
A blue tick signifies that a particular account is verified “because it's notable in government, news, entertainment, or another designated category”.
Twitter introduced the system in 2009, after it faced a lawsuit accusing it of not doing enough to prevent imposter accounts.
However, Musk's decision to charge for blue ticks did not go down well with many longtime users, including author Stephen King, who has nearly seven million followers on the platform.
“$20 a month to keep my blue check?” he tweeted on Monday, followed by an expletive. “They should pay me. If that gets instituted, I'm gone like Enron.” Following up later in a reply, King wrote, “[i]t ain't the money, it's the principle of the thing.”
Musk replied to King with his most explicit acknowledgment yet of the proposal to charge for account verification. “[W]e need to pay the bills somehow! Twitter cannot rely entirely on advertisers,” he said. “How about $8?”
Kasturi Shankar, a user with blue tick whose Twitter bio describes her as an actor, activist, lawyer, writer, quizzer, dancer, foodie and "travelholic", wrote, "Way to dilute the blue tick verification. Real important people will leave, and take with them the users you need to justify the platform. When businesses and media buy blue ticks, they will in turn try to monetise their tweets. Twitter will become a bill board."
Another user named David Rothschild asked, "So, the more money you spend the more elevated your speech?"
"Faux populism from billionaires who just want to cut taxes & regulations for the rich, while crushing rights of workers to get basic social safety & bargaining necessary to be healthy, productive, and have meaningful opportunity is particularly infuriating type of faux populism," said the user which has the blue tick handle @DavMicRot.
Another verified user having handle @Rubiu5 asked, "What happens when a random user pays $8 and changes his Display Name to Elon Musk, using your same profile pic and starts tweeting like he's you?"
Verified check marks exist so people know they follow the real person, the user pointed out.
Responding to the barrage of criticisms, Musk said Twitter speaks to the inner masochist in all of us.
"To all complainers, please continue complaining, but it will cost $8," he tweeted.
In a subsequent tweet, Musk shared a link to a popular British skit titled 'Argument'.
The well known sketch by comedy troupe Monty Python sees a character, played by Michael Pali, becoming enraged after paying for a five-minute argument with John Cleese.
“Totally stole the idea of charging for insults and arguments from Monty Python tbh,” Musk wrote.