The new owner of the social media giant plans to launch an $8 subscription service starting next week.
Elon Musk plans to start charging Twitter’s blue tick as early as next week, according to media reports, as the billionaire’s closely watched plans for the social media giant quickly take shape.
Musk aims to launch its $8 subscription service for users who want to get or keep the checkmark starting Monday, The New York Times and Bloomberg reported Thursday, citing internal documents and people familiar with the matter, respectively.
The Tesla CEO’s plans come as the billionaire seeks to boost his revenue and crack down on spam accounts after completing his $44 billion purchase of the platform last week.
Despite its influential place in politics and journalism, Twitter, which launched in 2006, has rarely made a profit and posted a net loss of $270 million in the second quarter of this year.
Under Twitter’s current system, famous users and accounts deemed to be of public interest can request a checkmark to verify their identity for free.
Originally introduced to prevent accounts from impersonating public figures, the check mark has become a status symbol and, for critics, a mark of liberal elitism.
As part of Musk’s planned overhaul, users would no longer be required to authenticate their identity, according to the New York Times.
The changes will initially be introduced in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and existing users will have an interim period to subscribe or lose their check mark, the newspaper said.
In a series of tweets on Tuesday, Musk described the current verification procedure for high-level accounts as “bullshit” and a “lords and peasants system.”
“Power to the people! Blue for $8/month,” Musk tweeted.
Musk also plans to cut up to half of the San Francisco-based company’s 7,500 employees, according to reports from Bloomberg and The Verge.
Musk’s takeover of the platform has become a lightning rod for the heated debate over free speech, misinformation and online hate in the age of social media.
Musk, a self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist”, criticized Twitter’s moderation policies and accused the company of favoring leftist views.
While critics have expressed fears that Musk’s ownership of the platform could pave the way for more hate speech and misinformation, many conservatives have welcomed the takeover as an antidote to censorship by the Big Tech politically incorrect speech.
Musk, who has presented himself as a political moderate, spoke of the need for a “common digital public square” that allows for a diversity of viewpoints while insisting that he does not favor a “hellscape free for all”.
Despite Musk’s assurances, major brands including General Motors, General Mills and Audi have suspended advertising on the platform as they seek to clarify its direction under its new owner.
Twitter generates more than 90% of its revenue from advertising, which brought in $4.5 billion last year. Musk said he wanted to reduce the company’s reliance on advertisers.