Elon Musk's revamped Twitter Blue launch has hit some major snags in the past week.
The paid model allows impersonators and trolls, making Twitter pause its rollout multiple times.
Here's everything that's happened with verification, from gray checks to the "parody subscript."
To describe the past week at Elon Musk's Twitter as chaotic would be an understatement.
In the span of one week, Musk — newly installed at the helm of the social-media platform after completing his tumultuous $44 billion takeover — fully dismantled Twitter's existing verification system, rolled out a new one, and then delayed and revoked it not once, but multiple times.
The shenanigans surrounding the blue check — and subsequent gray check — has heads spinning among average Twitter users, major advertisers, and big-name celebrities. The platform is now brimming with impersonators and joke accounts, and attempts to crack down on them seem ineffective — likely because Musk halved Twitter's workforce last week, scaling back significantly on content moderation.
Confused? You're not alone. Here's a look at everything that's happened with Twitter Blue in the past week and the murky state of verification on the platform.
'The whole verification process is being revamped'
At pre-Musk Twitter, the blue checkmark was used "to indicate active, notable, and authentic accounts of public interest that Twitter had independently verified based on certain requirements," according to the company's website.
But almost immediately after the takeover, reports emerged that Musk was considering a new paid-verification model through Twitter Blue, which would allow anyone to become verified if they paid a monthly fee.
The billionaire tweeted October 30 that "the whole verification process is being revamped right now." Later that day, The Verge reported that Musk assembled a team of staffers to work on a new verification model, and told them if it wasn't complete by November 7, he'd fire them.
The New York Times and CNBC later reported that these staffers were among a group of employees asked to work 12-hour shifts, seven days a week, and to sleep in their offices to implement Musk's changes.
'Power to the people!'
Musk's new verification model was designed to become part of Twitter's existing Twitter Blue feature, a $4.99 monthly subscription offering premium services. It launched earlier this year to low engagement.
In its initial version, blue-check holders would have 90 days before they would be required to pay $19 a month to retain it, while users without verification could opt to pay for a check.
On November 1, Musk provided more details on the coming changes to the verification model, writing in a tweet that Twitter's "current lords & peasants system for who has or doesn't have a blue checkmark is bullshit." He added, "Power to the people! Blue for $8/month."
The aim, it appeared, was to boost Twitter's subscription model so the company didn't have to rely so heavily on advertising. But the effort immediately ruffled feathers.
Stephen King and AOC are not pleased
As news spread about paid verification, celebrities and notable figures like Stephen King began speaking out, claiming they would leave the platform if they were forced to pay for a blue check.
"$20 a month to keep my blue check? Fuck that, they should pay me," King tweeted October 31. "If that gets instituted, I'm gone like Enron."
The next day, Musk responded to the novelist, writing, "We need to pay the bills somehow! Twitter cannot rely entirely on advertisers."
"I will explain the rationale in longer form before this is implemented. It is the only way to defeat the bots & trolls," Musk said in a follow-up tweet on November 1.
New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined King, calling Musk out in a tweet for being "a billionaire earnestly trying to sell people on the idea that 'free speech' is actually a $8/mo subscription plan." Musk responded, "Your feedback is appreciated, now pay $8."
Later, Ocasio-Cortez said her account stopped working after she criticized Musk.
Celebrities bid farewell to Twitter
In the following days, celebrities like Shonda Rhimes and Sara Bareilles tweeted that they planned to leave the platform, and Captain Marvel actor Robert Kazinsky said blue-check verification is a "public service" that should not be charged.
Twitter lays off employees and officially rolls out Twitter Blue
On November 4, Twitter laid off an estimated 3,700 employees, or roughly half of its workforce. Part of these layoffs included the team that verified politician accounts, a move that took place just four days before the midterm elections.
The next day, Twitter surprised users with its new Twitter Blue verification subscription, by including a mention of the new $7.99 option in an updated description of the app on the Apple App Store.
Advertisers get anxious ...
In tandem with Twitter's mass layoffs, the company locked hundreds of workers out of content-moderation tools, leaving only 15 staffers with access.
The deprioritization of content moderation, paired with uncertain changes to the blue-check model, prompted a group of 40 organizations and media-watchdog groups to pen a letter to advertisers. In the message, the group urged brands to boycott Twitter if Musk refused to reinstate content-moderation practices.
"We, the undersigned organizations, call on you to notify Musk and publicly commit that you will cease all advertising on Twitter globally if he follows through on his plans to undermine brand safety and community standards including gutting content moderation," the letter read.
In response, Musk doubled down on his $8 verification plan, responding to growing criticism in a tweet with, "To all complainers, please continue complaining, but it will cost $8."
... and then decide to pull the plug
As Musk dug his heels in, advertisers expressed growing impatience. Many, including General Motors, Audi, and Pfizer, temporarily pulled their ads altogether. Later in the week, Musk threatened to "thermonuclear name and shame" these brands.
"I don't want my brand to have a screenshot next to God knows what," one ad buyer, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Insider's Lindsay Rittenhouse and Lara O'Reilly.
As backlash mounted, a Bloomberg report on November 3 said Musk planned to allow government accounts to keep their blue checks for free and would be exempt from the $8 fee.
Here come the impersonators
Within hours of the Twitter Blue rollout on November 5, celebrities including Valerie Bertinelli and Kathy Griffin jumped in pretending to be Musk to make a point about the revamped verification. On November 6, Musk tweeted that impersonators and parody accounts would receive a "permanent suspension" with "no warning."
Griffin, as well as actors Rich Sommer and Sarah Silverman, reported being locked out of their accounts after impersonating the billionaire.
Twitter delays rollout of Blue
On November 6, less than a day after formally rolling out paid verification, Twitter revoked it and pushed the debut until after the midterm elections, according to an internal communication The New York Times reviewed.
On November 7, Twitter managers were told to ask laid-off engineers if they'd be interested in returning to the company to help with the relaunch of Twitter Blue. A current employee told Insider's Kali Hays that of the five fired people they asked back, "only one expressed any interest."
A wild gray check appears ... and then disappears
Then, to add even more chaos, on November 8, Twitter announced it would display two different-colored checkmarks — one blue and one gray — to distinguish paid Twitter Blue checks from "official" verified accounts.
The confusion only continued from there. Twitter began rolling out gray checks on November 9; they appeared on the profile pages of news outlets, famous athletes, and politicians.
Esther Crawford, the product manager at Twitter, said the gray check still will continue but instead will focus "on government and commercial entities to begin with."
"Please note that Twitter will do lots of dumb things in coming months," Musk also tweeted that day. "We will keep what works & change what doesn't."
During a Twitter Space town hall-style meeting, also on November 9, he referred to the possibility of the $8 verification model being "a dumb decision, but we'll see," and called the blue and gray checks an "aesthetic nightmare."
Impersonators multiply ... and the gray check returns
By November 10, there was a torrent of trolls using the new verification process to impersonate not only Elon Musk, but tons of other notable figures and entities, from the Twitter official account itself to LeBron James and George W. Bush.
Several memes mocking users who pay for verification also began to appear on the social-media platform.
On November 11, Twitter once again re-rolled out the gray check marks after removing them, writing in a tweet from the company's support account that, "To combat impersonation, we've added an 'official' label to some accounts."
The reversal came as the trolls expanded to companies, proving advertisers' greatest fears were coming true. Two Twitter accounts posing as the pharmaceutical mogul Eli Lilly and Company posted a tweet saying, "Insulin is free now," then a tweet that prices of insulin would rise, prompting the company to later issue an apology and clarification.
Twitter Blue is once again revoked and the future of the check remains unclear
As the hijinks worsened, Twitter moved to suspend Twitter Blue on November 11, writing in an internal message it was halting subscriptions "to help address impersonation issues," The Verge's Zoe Schiffer reported.
Later that day, Musk wrote, "Accounts engaged in parody must include 'parody' in their name, not just in bio," though it's unclear how he plans to enforce that. He also said that Twitter is adding a "parody subscript," because "tricking people is not ok."
It is unclear when and how Twitter Blue may be reinstated. For now, the future of Musk's paid-verification system, as well as the fate of the company, remain uncertain.
Read the original article on Business Insider