Twitter moves free users to the spam folder and makes a risky bet on its future

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Twitter is on the verge of a historic change. It’s a huge risk that could alienate many of the accounts that create much of Twitter’s content. It also reveals how desperate Twitter is for new revenue streams as it fights to regain lost relevance and create a viable business model.

Elon Musk has revealed that the old blue checkmarks for notable Twitter accounts will start to disappear on April 1. Then, on April 15, only new Blue paid-for accounts’ tweets will appear in Twitter users’ For You feeds and be allowed to vote in polls, according to a tweet from Musk. Last fall, in a Twitter Spaces event, Musk said that Blue verified account tweets will appear higher in users’ main feeds while tweets from unverified accounts would be relegated to the “probable spam folder.

Also: Meta rolls out paid verification to Instagram and Facebook

Twitter’s For You tab shows users tweets from people they don’t follow but are recommended by Twitter’s algorithm. Musk tweeted that restricting this tab to Twitter Blue user tweets “is the only realistic way to address advanced AI bot swarms taking over.”

However, hours after he made this announcement, Musk amended his comments. He tweeted, “Forgot to mention that accounts you follow directly will also be in For You, since you have explicitly asked for them.”

According to a report by Platformer, Twitter has already been silently recommending some users’ posts over others. “For months, the platform has maintained a list of around 35 VIP users whose accounts it monitors and offers increased visibility alongside Elon Musk.”

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Earlier, Musk had also said, “Voting in polls will require verification for the same reason.” He added, “That said, it’s ok to have verified bot accounts if they follow terms of service don’t impersonate a human.” 

This has led to confusion. As one person replied, “‘Verified bot’?  that’s like an oxymoron and the anthesis to what you say you are trying to accomplish. Odd.”

This latest set of shifts in Twitter policy is seen by many as an attempt to switch over from an advertiser-based model to one that depends on user subscriptions. In a letter to employees, Musk said Twitter is now worth about $20 billion. He’d paid $44 billion for Twitter in October 2022.

Currently, Twitter has less than 500K paid subscribers. That’s less than only 0.12% of Twitter’s total user base. To meet Musk’s goal of 50% of the social network’s revenue, it would need 24 million Twitter Blue members.  

Also: How to delete your Twitter account and protect your data, too

Not everyone is happy with this shift to paid accounts. Actor William Shatner, best known as Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, tweeted, “Hey @elonmusk what’s this about blue checks going away unless we pay Twitter? I’ve been here for 15 years giving my [time] witty thoughts all for bupkis. Now you’re telling me that I have to pay for something you gave me for free? What is this-the Colombia Records Tape Club?”

Musk replied, “It’s more about treating everyone equally. There shouldn’t be a different standard for celebrities imo.”

Shatner wasn’t buying it. He responded, “The $7/mo ‘equality’ claim seems like a money grab. There’s nothing wrong with money grabs if you are clear upfront. You aren’t.”

Also: Why is Twitter turning millions of accounts into defenseless targets?

But, even as a money grab, will it be successful? Analysis of the new Blue subscribers shows that half of them have less than 1,000 followers. They’re not exactly influencers. As well-known technology journalist, Mike Elgan tweeted, “He thinks this will force people to pay. Instead, it will make Twitter not worth paying for.”  


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