Elon Musk paid too much for Twitter. He now urgently needs to find money. One of his leads? Stop checking the identity of the person requesting their blue badge. A disaster for the social network and a step back from the current system.
It’s a disastrous decision, if accurate. According to information obtained by the New York Times on November 3, 2022, the brand new certification system on Twitter wanted by Elon Musk will skip the verification of the identity of the Internet user. This, even though it is absolutely essential to ensure that the person is who they claim to be.
The American daily indicates that it was able to consult internal documents from the social network, and exchange with two individuals aware of the construction sites in progress. It appears that subscribers would not need their identity to be authenticated to obtain the famous little blue tick. It would be enough to line up the eight monthly dollars to collect the badge.
Another indication provided by the newspaper: this new service would make its debut from November 7, 2022, first in a handful of countries (United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). Other countries will inevitably follow, but no timetable or name is mentioned for the moment. Worldwide, there are more than 430,000 certified people.
No more identity verification on Twitter?
When the service is launched, it is added that people and entities who already have the certification will not lose it immediately. There is a grace period – its duration is not specified – during which current certified accounts will rub shoulders with accounts that have purchased their badge. Then, the former will be encouraged to pay like the latter so as not to lose anything.
If this is confirmed, this decision indicates one thing: Twitter is in a very bad position. Its financial situation is deplorable and Elon Musk bought the site at an excessive price – 44 billion dollars in total, including 13 billion by loans from investment banks.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Twitter has generated annual profits of around $700 million over the past five years — including before taxes. Analysts believe that with the operation of Elon Musk, the annual burden of interest to be paid will increase from 51 million dollars (amount for 2021) to more than a billion. Accounts are not good for the entrepreneur.
In fact, Elon Musk really needs to get more money into the machine so that the operation can be sustained and give Twitter a future. So much so, moreover, that the billionaire found himself in a mind-blowing sequence where he gave the impression of negotiating the price directly with the writer Stephen King, hostile to this billing.
The absence of identity verification in this new system appears to be a simple strategy to bring in as much money as possible quickly, by limiting the safeguards at the entrance. The fewer the barriers, the more people will be willing to pay that $8 for the blue mark — and the few associated perks.
Problem: what he could gain on one side, with the subscriptions to obtain certification, risks being lost on the other. Advertisers like General Motors and Ford (automakers rivals to Tesla, another company of Elon Musk) have suspended advertising investments on Twitter, among other things because of plans to ease moderation.
At the same time, a movement has formed to compel the entrepreneur, so that he avoids making Twitter a rat race where moderation is absent subscribers. 40 organizations called on the major advertisers to weigh on the interested party to oblige him to respect the rules which protect the marks, under penalty of stopping to advertise.
This obsession with finding money quickly is likely to have significant consequences on the stability and good performance of Twitter. Employees will be laid off in large numbers, as of November 4, which will harm the moderation of the site, if these teams are affected. We’re talking about at least 50% of Twitter’s 7,500 employees.
As for the certification system desired by Musk, it will inevitably encourage identity theft, scams and misinformation. Despite its limitations, identity verification serves at least to avoid certain impostures. It also controls the field in which the person practices (journalism, sport, cinema, politics, economics, science, etc.).
Believing that a billing of 8 euros per month (or more) will act as a brake on those who spread misinformation is pure fantasy. We know that there is a whole black market of fake accounts, fake subscribers, fake certifications. These expenses are sometimes just a simple accounting line and are only an anecdotal expense in the face of certain influence objectives.
Of course, all these phenomena already exist with the current system – there are plenty of examples, starting with Donald Trump, who had developed fake news to an industrial degree, on purpose. But at least there was a barrier, no doubt imperfect, which served as a rampart. There, the floodgates will be wide open. There will be no more dikes.
We need you to build the future of Numerama: take part in our survey!