Musk plans to relaunch Twitter’s premium service, again

LONDON (AP) — Elon Musk said Friday that Twitter plans to relaunch its premium service that will offer different colored checkmarks on accounts next week, in a new move to revamp the service after an earlier attempt failed.

It’s the latest change to the social media platform that Tesla’s billionaire CEO bought last month for $44 billion, a day after Musk said he would grant “amnesty” for suspended accounts and caused even more uncertainty for consumers. users.

Twitter previously suspended the premium service, which under Musk awarded blue verification labels to anyone paying $8 a month, due to a wave of imposter accounts. Originally, the blue check was given to government entities, corporations, celebrities and journalists verified by the platform to prevent identity theft.

In the latest version, companies will receive a golden check, governments will receive a gray check and people who pay for the service, whether they are celebrities or not, will receive a blue check, Musk said Friday.

“All verified accounts will be manually authenticated before the check is activated,” he said, adding that it was “painful, but necessary” and promising a “longer explanation” next week. He said the service would “tentatively launch” on December 2.

Twitter had suspended the revamped premium service days after its launch earlier this month after accounts impersonated companies including pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly & Co., Nintendo, Lockheed Martin and even Musk’s own companies Tesla. and SpaceX, along with various professional sports and politicians. figures.

It was just a change in the last two days. On Thursday, Musk said he would grant “amnesty” to suspended accounts, following the results of an online survey he conducted on whether accounts that did not “break the law or engage in egregious spam” should be reinstated.

The affirmative vote was 72%. Such online surveys are anything but scientific and can easily be influenced by bots. Musk also used one before restoring the account of former US President Donald Trump.

“The people have spoken. The amnesty starts next week. Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” Musk tweeted Thursday using a Latin phrase meaning “the voice of the people, the voice of God.”

Online safety experts predict the move would lead to an increase in harassment, hate speech and misinformation. It’s also likely to put the company on a crash course with European regulators looking to clamp down on harmful content online with tough new rules.

Zach Meyers, senior fellow at the Center for European Reform think tank, said granting blanket amnesty based on an online survey is an “arbitrary approach” that is “difficult to reconcile with the Digital Services Act,” a new law the EU that will begin to be applied. to the largest online platforms by mid-2023.

The law is intended to protect Internet users from illegal content and reduce the spread of harmful but legal content. It requires large social media platforms to be “diligent and objective” in enforcing the restrictions, which must be spelled out clearly in fine print for users when signing up, Meyers said.

Britain is also working on its own online security law.

“Unless Musk moves quickly from a ‘move fast and break things’ approach to a more sober management style, he will be on a collision course with regulators in Brussels and London,” Meyers said.

European Union officials took to social media to highlight their concerns. The Executive Commission of the 27-nation bloc released a report Thursday that found Twitter took longer to review hateful content and removed less this year compared to 2021.

The report was based on data collected in the spring, before Musk acquired Twitter, as part of an annual assessment of online platforms’ compliance with the bloc’s voluntary code of conduct on disinformation. He found that Twitter evaluated just over half of the notifications it received about illegal hate speech within 24 hours, up from 82% in 2021.

The numbers may still get worse. Since he took over, Musk has laid off half of the company’s 7,500-person workforce along with untold numbers of contractors responsible for content moderation. Many others have resigned, including the company’s head of trust and security.

The recent firings on Twitter and the results of the EU review “are a source of concern,” the bloc’s justice commissioner Didier Reynders tweeted on Thursday night after meeting with Twitter executives at the European headquarters of the company in Dublin.

At the meeting, Reynders said he “underlined that we expect Twitter to honor its voluntary commitments and abide by EU rules,” including the Digital Services Law and the bloc’s strict privacy regulations known as the General Data Protection Regulation. , or GDPR.

Another EU commissioner, Vera Jourova, tweeted on Thursday night that she was concerned by news reports about the layoff of a “large number” of Twitter’s European staff.

“If you want to effectively detect and take action against #disinformation and propaganda, this requires resources,” Jourova said. “Especially in the context of the Russian disinformation war.”