San Francisco (AFP) – New Twitter head Elon Musk said Tuesday the site will charge $8 per month to verify users’ accounts, arguing the plan would solve the platform’s issues with bots and trolls while creating a new revenue stream for the company.
The announcement comes only days after the world’s wealthiest man took sole control of the social media giant in a contentious $44 billion deal.
“Power to the people! Blue for $8/month,” Musk, who has styled himself as a free-speech champion, tweeted, in reference to the platform’s paid subscription service, Twitter Blue.
Under the new plan, paid subscribers would receive Twitter’s famous blue checkmark that signals a verified, authentic account.
That feature is currently offered only to public figures, an approach Musk described as a “lords & peasants system.”
He said Twitter Blue subscribers would also receive “priority” placement in “replies, mentions & search,” which he called “essential to defeat spam/scam.”
There would also be expanded video abilities, fewer ads, and the possibility for users to get a “paywall bypass for publishers willing to work with us,” he said.
Twitter Blue currently allows users to access certain news sites for free and without ads, such as the Los Angeles Times.
“This will also give Twitter a revenue stream to reward content creators,” Musk tweeted.
Addressing the worries of some Twitter users that their blue check mark would lose its notoriety, he also announced “a secondary tag below the name for someone who is a public figure, which is already the case for politicians.”
The Twitter Blue service currently offers various other premium features, such as allowing subscribers to edit their tweets.
The new plan’s pricing, up from the current $5 per month, would be adjusted by country “proportionate to purchasing power parity,” Musk added in a reply to his original tweet.
Musk re-tweeted and replied to users praising the paid-verification idea, saying the move “will destroy the bots.”
“If a paid Blue account engages in spam/scam, that account will be suspended,” Musk wrote.
‘Need to pay the bills’
For users that currently have blue check marks, Musk is considering removing them if they do not pay for the new service, tech news outlet The Verge reported.
Some users warned that they would simply leave the site if they were made to pay.
The SpaceX and Tesla chief floated the $8 subscription fee idea earlier Tuesday in a tweet reply to author Stephen King, who was complaining about media reports that the verification service could cost $20 per month.
“We need to pay the bills somehow!” Musk responded.
“Twitter cannot rely entirely on advertisers. How about $8?”
The proposal is only one part of a series of sweeping changes the 51-year-old entrepreneur has implemented at Twitter, with the entire board, including CEO Parag Agrawal, let go last week.
The Washington Post has reported that Musk, whose account bio currently reads “Twitter Complaint Hotline Operator,” plans to fire some 75 percent of his company’s 7,500 employees.
Musk financed the massive deal through a mixture of his own wealth, money from other investment groups and loans from banks which will have to be reimbursed.
His previous comments condemning Twitter’s content moderation policies as heavy-handed — as well as his frequent posts of boundary-testing memes — has given pause to some advertisers, currently the company’s main source of revenue.
Some users have expressed fear Twitter could turn into a global stage for hate speech and disinformation.
He tried to calm the nerves by reassuring over the weekend that the site would not become a “free-for-all hellscape,” and announced the formation of a content moderation council.
However on Sunday, Musk himself tweeted an anti-LGBT conspiracy theory about what happened the night US Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband was attacked, then hours later deleted the post.