Elon Musk said Twitter will launch a verification feature with multicolored check marks, just weeks after the botched rollout of its paid-for blue check model, which had to be scuttled when impersonation accounts ran rampant.
All verified accounts “will be manually authenticated before check activates,” Musk tweeted.
The Twitter owner did not elaborate on what manual authentication would entail. Accounts with legacy blue check marks on the social media site had to have their identity verified to get the token, and are predominantly used by companies, celebrities, journalists, politicians and other public figures. It’s unclear whether Twitter has a system in place to manually authenticate accounts, especially after cutting its workforce dramatically in the past month.
The billionaire took over Twitter last month in a $44 billion deal that he proposed, then tried to cancel, then proposed again. Since the acquisition, Twitter’s workforce has been in chaos. Musk has slashed about half its jobs, then delivered an ultimatum to the remaining employees to commit to a new “hardcore” Twitter or leave. Hundreds of employees refused to sign the pledge.
The company’s Trust and Safety team, which is responsible for combating hate speech and policing content on the site, has undergone major upheaval under Musk — from leaders leaving to carefully crafted decisions being reversed. He seems to be making many critical decisions by polling Twitter users. Musk restored former president Donald Trump’s account and plans to reinstate nearly all previously banned accounts after conducting separate polls.
Several major advertisers have halted advertising on the site since Musk took over — putting Twitter’s main source of revenue at risk.
Musk upended the legacy check mark system soon after he took control of the company, rolling out a feature in the company’s Twitter Blue subscription service that let anyone pay $7.99 and get a blue check mark on their account, provided they had an Apple ID and phone number.
But the new paid system quickly went awry. Accounts were created impersonating public figures, elected officials and brands. Tweets purporting to be from politicians or companies went viral.
The chaos made it difficult to quickly tell which accounts were valid and which were impersonations, eroding trust in posts on the site. Twitter disabled new sign-ups for the service.
On Friday, Musk tweeted that the company is “tentatively launching Verified on Friday next week.” He did not say what exactly that would mean for accounts that had check marks under the old system, or for accounts that are interested in paying for Twitter’s subscription service.
It’s unclear how Twitter plans to authenticate new accounts under this system. Identity verification takes a big team to do well, said Rachel Tobac, a hacker and CEO of firm SocialProof Security.
“With a greatly reduced workforce, this level of identity verification (done well), could be a huge challenge for Twitter,” she said in an email.
He tweeted that “all verified individual humans will have same blue check, as boundary of what constitutes ‘notable’ is otherwise too subjective.”
Musk stopped a rollout from earlier in the month that would have given officially verified accounts a new badge to denote they have been confirmed to be who they say they are.
“Apart from it being an aesthetic nightmare when looking at the Twitter feed it is simply another way of creating a two-class system,” he said during a Twitter Spaces audio call.
Musk and Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
But on the platform, in a response to another user, he said accounts would be suspended if they engage in “deliberate impersonation/deception.”
He added: “We shall see how it goes.”