New ‘Verified’ Twitter Badges, Restoring Suspended Accounts

Twitter’s billionaire owner Elon Musk has announced that the platform would be launching differently coloured ‘Verified’ badges to distinguish between accounts, as well as grant “amnesty” to certain suspended accounts.

“Sorry for the delay, we’re tentatively launching Verified on Friday next week…Gold check for companies, grey check for government, blue for individuals (celebrity or not) and all verified accounts will be manually authenticated before check activates,” he tweeted, adding that all verified individual accounts would have the same blue check, but some would eventually be able to display a “secondary tiny logo showing they belong to an org(anisation) if verified as such by that org(anisation)”.

Separately, he also conducted an informal poll on his account, inviting people to vote on whether Twitter should reinstate suspended accounts that “have not broken the law or engaged in egregious spam”. A landslide of users voted in favour of doing so, to which he replied, “The people have spoken. Amnesty begins next week. Vox Populi, Vox Dei. (The voice of the people is the voice of God)”

What does Elon Musk plan to do with the Twitter Verified badges?

The Tesla and SpaceX boss’ proposal for users to be able to pay to be “verified” and obtain a blue badge on their profiles has caused confusion since he acquired the social media giant last month.

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Elon Musk, who’s the new owner of Twitter, has announced that the platform would be launching differently coloured ‘Verified’ badges to distinguish between accounts. (Image: Olivier Douliery/ AFP)

Musk proposed a subscription fee of $8 a month to allow users to obtain the blue check — which was previously free but reserved for organisations and public figures in an attempt to avoid impersonation and misinformation.

The first rollout of Musk’s subscription plan in early November quickly went south, with many accounts paying for the blue check and then impersonating world leaders, celebrities or companies.

Responding to the backlash, Musk initially postponed the launch date to November 29, before delaying it once more. It now appears the feature will launch on December 2.

Musk has said that he wants to charge users for subscriptions to the social media platform to diversify its income stream. Twitter currently depends on advertising for 90 percent of its revenue.

Several major brands have withdrawn from advertising on the platform since Musk bought it, fearing that his promised relaxation of content moderation could open their companies up to being associated with objectionable content.

According to the NGO Media Matters, half of Twitter’s top 100 advertisers have announced that they are suspending or “have apparently suspended” their spending on the social network.

Has Elon Musk already reinstated any suspended Twitter accounts?

Of 3.16 million respondents to Musk’s Thursday poll question, 72.4 percent said suspended accounts should be allowed back on Twitter. It was the same type of “yes/no” informal poll of Twitter users that Musk devised to decide in favour of reinstating former president Donald Trump on the platform. Trump’s Twitter account was restored Saturday after a narrow majority of respondents supported the move.

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Donald Trump was allowed back on Twitter after Elon Musk conducted a poll. (Image: Gage Skidmore from Surprise, AZ, United States of America – Donald Trump/CC BY-SA 2.0/Wikimedia Commons)

Polls on Twitter are open to all users and are unscientific and potentially targeted by fake accounts and bots. Moreover, while Musk has 118 million followers, many of Twitter’s 450 million monthly active users might never have seen the poll question.

A blanket amnesty for suspended accounts could potentially alarm government authorities that are keeping a close look at Musk’s handling of hateful speech since he bought the influential platform for US$44 billion.

It could also spook Apple and Google, tech titans that have the power to ban Twitter from their mobile app stores over content concerns.

Trump was banned from the platform early last year for his role in the January 6 attack on the US Capitol by a mob of his supporters seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Not all suspended accounts will be allowed back on Twitter

Musk’s reinstatement of Trump followed that of other banned accounts including a conservative parody site and a psychologist who had violated Twitter’s rules on language identifying transgender people.

The CEO of Tesla and SpaceX has said that conspiracy theorist Alex Jones will not be returning to Twitter and will remain banned from the platform.

Musk on Sunday said he had “no mercy for anyone who would use the deaths of children for gain, politics or fame” due to his own experience with the death of his first child. Jones has been ordered to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in damages for his lies about the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that killed 26 people, mostly children.

Musk, who closed his buyout of Twitter in late October, did not make clear whether the bans to be lifted by the poll were permanent suspensions or temporary ones.

The future of content moderation on Twitter has become an urgent concern, with major advertisers keeping away from the site after a failed relaunch earlier this month saw a proliferation of fake accounts, causing embarrassment.

Meanwhile the teams in charge of keeping nefarious activity off the site have been gutted, victims of Musk-led layoffs that saw half of total employees leave the company.

John Wihbey, a media professor at Northeastern University, speculated that all the chaos might be because Musk is seeking to “buy himself time.”

“Regulators are certainly going to come after him, both in Europe and maybe the United States… and therefore a lot of what he’s doing is trying to frame those fights,” Wihbey said.

This story was published via AFP Relaxnews

(Main and featured image: Jim Watson/ AFP)

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