Elon Musk predicts failure for social media networks without paid verification model

Twitter CEO warns social media networks without paid verification may fail due to bot swarming

Elon Musk defended Twitter's controversial pay model for verification, claiming it is necessary to combat the problem of fake accounts and bots. Bloomberg
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Elon Musk has defended his controversial pay model for Twitter, saying that social media platforms not following suit would be swarmed by bots, resulting in failure.

His comments come as Twitter's April 1 ultimatum looms, in which verified accounts that have not paid for the blue tick will lose it.

"The fundamental challenge here is that it's (easy) to create literally 10,000 or 100,000 fake Twitter accounts using just one computer at home and with modern AI (artificial intelligence)," Mr Musk said in a Q&A session on Twitter.

"That's the reason for really pressing hard on verified where the verified requires a number from a reputable phone carrier and a credit card. My prediction is that any so-called social media network that doesn't do this will fail."

The change puts pressure on companies, journalists, and celebrities who use Twitter as their main channel of communication and rely on the blue tick for credibility.

The blue tick has become a signature element since Twitter's creation in 2009, helping the platform become a trusted forum for news makers and campaigners.

However, Mr Musk and his fans have called the blue check a symbol of an unfair class system, decided by fiat in a secretive procedure.

Opening the blue tick to paying subscribers was one of the first decisions made by Mr Musk when he took ownership of Twitter last year, but his overhaul backfired.

Within hours, Twitter was flooded by fake yet verified accounts impersonating celebrities, major companies, and even Mr Musk himself.

The Twitter CEO swiftly backtracked, but many advertisers fled the site, denying Twitter a major source of income that Mr Musk is struggling to replace.

For now, blue checks of celebrities, including Justin Bieber and footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, are tagged on the site as "legacy" accounts. The verified account conundrum also involves officials, charities, and news media companies.

Andrew Stroehlein, European Media Director of Human Rights Watch, said his group would not pay for the privilege. He said: "This will be awful for those who can't afford the new fees.

"It will damage the effectiveness of local activists, including human rights activists, who have long used Twitter for grassroots organising," Mr Stroehlein added in a blog post.

The "pay to play" verification model is also being tested by Twitter rival Facebook in Australia and New Zealand, which has also drawn major criticism.

Much is riding on Mr Musk's ability to find a business model for Twitter.

Last week, he put the current value of Twitter at $20 billion, less than half the $44 billion he paid for the social media platform just five months ago.

Twitter's website shows that verified business accounts cost a hefty fee of $1,000 a month in the United States, and $50 for each additional affiliated account.

News media companies, firms, and charities have already lost their blue tick and have been tagged as verified business accounts under the new system.

The New York Times said it will not pay for a verified business account and that it would only subscribe for a blue tick for journalists when essential for reporting needs.

Updated: April 01, 2023, 4:10 AM