With Twitter Blue take-up failing to reach expectations, Elon Musk is taking drastic action to drive more adoption, announcing today that, as of April 15th, the only tweets that will be displayed in the ‘For You’ tab – i.e. the main tab of the app – will be from paying, Twitter Blue verified accounts.
Starting April 15th, only verified accounts will be eligible to be in For You recommendations.
The is the only realistic way to address advanced AI bot swarms taking over. It is otherwise a hopeless losing battle.
Voting in polls will require verification for same reason.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 27, 2023
As Musk notes, voting in Twitter polls will also become a Twitter Blue exclusive option, which will severely restrict the reach of non-paying accounts, while also limiting general user functionality.
Twitter’s also removing ‘legacy’ blue checkmarks later this week, which will mean that, as of April 15th, your Twitter feeds are going to look a lot different, with the only blue ticks being from paying users, and only paying users showing up in For You feed recommendations.
You’ll still be able to view tweets from the accounts you follow in your ‘Following’ tab, and you’ll still be able to see tweets from non-Twitter Blue accounts in other areas, like Explore trends. But it will limit visibility, which could prompt more accounts to pay up, and boost Twitter’s revenue intake from subscriptions.
Twitter Blue, which, as of last week, is now available in all regions, currently has around 450k subscribers, which equates to 0.18% of Twitter’s total user base. The risk for Twitter is that this small group of users is also largely aligned with Musk, and his political and ideological stances, which could turn your For You feed into a very one-sided discussion, in relation to political and world events.
That could turn a lot of users away – because as Parler and various other right wing social media apps have shown, nobody really wants to engage in a partisan chatter fest. But brands, in particular, do want visibility for their tweets, and maybe, by restricting their exposure based on subscriptions, that’ll lead to a big uptake in Twitter Blue, which, by extension, as Musk notes, could help to combat bots and spam in the app.
The logic here is that spammers and scammers won’t be able to afford to pay $8 per account to run their schemes. Right now, a scammer can set up hundreds of thousands of Twitter accounts, free of charge, then use those profiles to make certain opinions or angles trend, amplifying whatever side of an argument they choose to take.
But if the majority of Twitter users pay for verification, that will eventually mean the only non-verified accounts will belong to spammers that can’t afford it. That, theoretically, will make these scams much easier to identify – but in order for this to be a viable approach, Musk will need really high take-up of Twitter Blue, which, thus far, is not even close to happening.
Which is why Twitter’s now taking steps to make paid verification a thing.
Will that work? I’m tipping the majority of users still won’t pay, while the potential downside is that it could make a lot of people less likely to tweet, and less likely to switch over to the ‘For You’ tab, hampering discovery, and thus usage.
But it seems like Musk is going to find out for himself.
At least he’ll know, definitively, if this is a workable option or not.