According to media reports, Elon Musk plans to begin charging for Twitter’s blue check mark as early as next week, as the billionaire’s closely watched plans for the social media giant rapidly take shape.
According to The New York Times and Bloomberg, Musk plans to launch his $8 subscription service for users who want to obtain or keep the check mark on Monday, citing internal documents and people familiar with the matter, respectively.
The Tesla CEO’s plans come as the billionaire seeks to increase revenue and reduce spam accounts following his $44 billion purchase of the platform last week.
Despite its prominence in politics and journalism, Twitter, which was founded in 2006, has never turned a profit, reporting a net loss of $270 million in the second quarter of this year.
Under Twitter’s current system, famous users and accounts deemed of public interest can apply for a free check mark to verify their identity.
Originally designed to prevent accounts from impersonating public figures, the check mark has become a status symbol and, according to critics, a sign of liberal elitism.
According to the New York Times, under Musk’s proposed changes, users would no longer be required to authenticate their identity.
The changes will be implemented first in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, with existing users given an interim period to subscribe or lose their check mark, according to the newspaper.
Musk called the current verification procedure for high-profile accounts “bullsh*t” and a “lords and peasants system” in a series of tweets on Tuesday.
“People’s power!” “Blue for $8/month,” Musk said on Twitter.
According to Bloomberg and The Verge, Musk also intends to lay off up to half of the company’s 7,500 employees in San Francisco.
Musk’s takeover of the platform has become a flashpoint in the social media age’s heated debate over free speech, misinformation, and online hate.
Musk, a self-described “free-speech absolutist,” has blasted Twitter’s moderation policies, accusing the company of favoring left-wing viewpoints.
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While some critics have expressed concern that Musk’s ownership of the platform will lead to increased hate speech and misinformation, many conservatives have welcomed the takeover as an antidote to Big Tech’s censorship of politically incorrect speech.
Musk, who has positioned himself as a political moderate, has spoken of the need for a “common digital town square” that allows for a diversity of viewpoints while stating that he does not support a “free-for-all hellscape.”
Despite Musk’s assurances, major brands such as General Motors, General Mills, and Audi have suspended their advertising on the platform as they seek clarity on the platform’s direction under its new owner.
Twitter earns more than 90% of its revenue from advertising, which brought in $4.5 billion last year. Musk has stated that he wishes to reduce the company’s reliance on advertisers.