Musk: Paid Ticks Won’t Return Until Twitter Can Stop The Representation


When Elon Musk first launched his Twitter Blue subscription service, the goal was to make it possible to purchase the blue checkmark as a coveted status symbol. Now, the billionaire is backing down (at least for now), announcing in a tweet that the relaunch of Blue Verified checkmarks will be delayed and, likely, when it is implemented, the checkmarks that distinguish between Blue Verified subscribers and official verified accounts will be in different colors.

“Holding Blue Verified relaunch until there is high confidence in shutting down representation,” Musk tweeted. “It will probably use different color control for organizations than for individuals.”

Many Twitter users suggested this obvious fix before the fake accounts scandal found the platform littered with copycats of popular but chaotic brands. This ultimately led to Musk revoking the option to pay $8 for a Blue Verified subscription.

Musk’s tweet doesn’t clarify how different color controls for organizations versus individuals would actually prevent individuals from being portrayed. Twitter staffers initially warned him that scammers would use Blue Verified to impersonate world leaders or public figures, but Musk ignored that advice at the time. While he’s still trying to salvage his original idea of ​​selling ticks to subscribers based on ordinary users striving for a marker of celebrity status, there still seems to be a risk that fake accounts could harm individual users.

Just this week, for example, Vice reported that a fake account used Blue Verified to impersonate FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried. That fake account was based on a deepfake video that pretended to show Bankman-Fried promising to repay victims of the FTX scandal by signing them up for a cryptocurrency giveaway that would help them not only recover lost funds, but also double their money.

Relying on the video and verified Twitter tick, the fake account tricked users into visiting the crypto giveaway and sending tokens to the scammer. In return, Twitter users who were scammed got nothing, Vice reported.

In this particular case, victims of Bankman-Fried were targeted for crypto scam, but more commonly these types of scams are based on fake celebrity endorsements. If Blue Verified doesn’t distinguish between official and fake celebrity accounts, it’s easy to see how these crypto scams could become a bigger problem for Twitter.

Reuters reported that Musk had initially planned to revive Blue Verified next week, but his latest tweet suggests the wait will be longer.

Musk has plans to roll out more Twitter 2.0 features

It makes sense that Musk would focus on protecting brands from representation as a priority in his relaunch of Blue Verified, as Twitter can’t turn a profit without reassuring advertisers. But Musk has other big ideas, too, and he’s told his small engineering team that he will demand long hours from them to help evolve the platform.

The Verge obtained a recording of a meeting Musk held on Monday, reporting that Musk’s new vision of Twitter 2.0 is a service where private messages are totally private. For Musk, that means all direct messages are encrypted, so he plans to work with Signal. According to Musk, Signal is “potentially” interested in helping Musk ensure that: “I can’t look at anyone’s DMs if someone has a gun to my head.”

Signal, however, told Ars the company had no official talks with Musk.

“Signal has not partnered with Twitter on this effort,” Meredith Whittaker, president of Signal, told Ars. “We believe more private communications are a net good and are interested to see how Twitter addresses the complexity of creating usable and encrypted DMs across the web and mobile devices.”

In addition to encrypted DMs, Musk wants to add encrypted voice and video chat capabilities.

“We want to allow users to communicate without worrying about their privacy, [or] without worrying about a data breach on Twitter causing all their DMs to hit the web, or thinking maybe someone on Twitter could be spying on their DMs,” Musk told Twitter staff.

For anyone keeping track, that means that in addition to rolling out potential paid features, like sending a celebrity direct message or viewing exclusive videos from content creators, basic fixes, like improving Twitter search, and bold ideas, such as turning Twitter into the next PayPal, Musk also hopes to make Twitter a go-to messenger for users. He will, he told his team about him, by deviating from other messaging services and making sure Twitter users don’t have to share actual phone numbers to communicate.

“You don’t have to give someone your phone number,” Musk told employees.

It seems that, ideally in Musk’s world, Twitter handles would become every user’s entire online identity, something obviously worth paying $8 a month for, as soon as he finds out about the whole impersonation thing.

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