What’s going on at Twitter?

Christine Tudhope
Tuesday 2 May 2023

So, what exactly is happening at Twitter? Good question… is Elon paying for celebrities to be verified? What is Stephen King saying? Is Twitter verified a badge of shame? Before we get in to all of that perhaps we should look back at the timeline of the Elon Musk Twitter buy-out saga that has been one of the most public takeovers in recent times.

Introduced in December 2022, ‘Twitter Blue’ is the new paid-for account verification, which will result in Twitter legacy verified accounts having their blue check identifier removed as of April 2023.

Elon Musk
Elon Musk, Twitter CEO 

The timeline below outlines the acquisition of Twitter by Elon Musk leading up to the removal of the blue verified account status in April 2023.

  • Elon Musk became the owner and CEO of Twitter on 27 October 2022, after acquiring the social media company for US$44 billion.  

This was after a lengthy protracted process over several months where Musk used the platform to poll users about whether the platform adhered to the principles of free speech and spam accounts suggesting the true figures of Twitter users were being over-inflated to increase the share price ahead of its acquisition.

  • Following the acceptance of his financial offer, Musk immediately fired the CEO Parag Agrawal, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Ned Segal, Gadde, and General Counsel Sean Edgett.

Three days later (30 October 2022) Musk announced his intention to review the Twitter verification process in a series of tweets. A report begins to surface that Musk is considering charging users to pay to remain verified. A separate report says Musk plans to offer verification checkmarks through Twitter Blue and increase the price to US$19.99 per month.

In a bizarre exchange on Twitter with Stephen King, Musk confirms plans to charge for verification, though at a reduced price of US$8 per month. Musk reportedly orders Twitter staff to work 12-hour shifts to accomplish his goal of launching the new verification system within a week.

  • Musk makes half of Twitter employees redundant as part of an alleged cost-cutting measure in November 2022. On Twitter, Musk says the layoffs are due to a massive drop in company revenue:

“Twitter has had a massive drop in revenue, due to activist groups pressuring advertisers, even though nothing has changed with content moderation, and we did everything we could to appease the activists. Extremely messed up! They’re trying to destroy free speech in America.” – Elon Musk

  • Following Musk’s acquisition of Twitter many large organisations and household brands paused their advertising campaigns and paid content on the platform in response to their concerns about the direction of Twitter.

The exodus of advertisers grew amid concerns about Musk’s planned scale back misinformation and security protections on the platform. As civil rights groups called potential moderation issues into question, companies considered whether staying on Twitter might tarnish their brands.

  • Twitter launched its new verification system, with all users receiving a blue checkmark by purchasing Twitter Blue on 9 November 2022.
Twitter Blue  

Shortly after launching, Musk paused the Twitter Blue subscriptions due to accounts abusing the verification checkmark by impersonating brands and public figures.

  • In Musk’s first address to Twitter staff since taking ownership of the company, he warns about a dire financial situation.

Musk reportedly believes Twitter doesn’t have the cash flow to survive, mentioning that bankruptcy is possible. He continues with mass redundancies – under Musk’s leadership, Twitter has fired an estimated 80 percent of contract employees without formal notice. Musk issues an ultimatum to Twitter staff, asking them to commit to “hardcore” working conditions or get let go with three months’ severance pay.

Most Twitter employees opt to leave the company.

  • Musk announces a new ‘Blue Verified’ programme will launch at the end of November 2022.

Twitter publishes a policy change, stating accounts less than 90 days old can’t sign up for Twitter Blue.

Twitter poll
Twitter poll 

Musk publishes a poll asking whether he should reinstate the account of former United States President Donald Trump. Following the poll (51.8 percent voted Yes, 48.2 percent voted No), Donald Trump was reinstated on the platform as part of a general amnesty for suspended Twitter accounts.

One week later Twitter updated its website to note it’s no longer enforcing its Covid-19 misinformation policy.

Musk holds off the relaunch of Blue Verified until the company figures out a way to stop impersonations while threatening to invent a rival phone should Apple and Google remove the Twitter app from their platforms.

  • Blue Verified is relaunched on 1 December 2022.

On Thursday 26 March 2023 Musk announced that Twitter Blue was officially available for users located anywhere in the world, and followed up with another piece of news: legacy verified users on Twitter – the celebrities, artists, and journalists who were deemed “notable” users and had their identification verified by the previous Twitter regime for free – would lose their verified account status starting on 1 April.

So, you’re all up to speed… but what’s next for Twitter?

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