Elon Musk, the new owner of Twitter, has announced that the social platform will launch a revamped account verification service at the beginning of December, including the allocation of different colour-coded ticks to verified individuals, government entities, and companies.
The purpose of the ticks (or checkmarks) is to provide visible confirmation that an account has been verified as authentic. Individuals will receive a blue tick next to their account name, while government accounts get a grey tick, and companies a gold tick.
Musk advised that all accounts would be ‘manually authenticated’ by in- house verification experts before being awarded a tick.
He did not clarify, however, whether the service would be free of charge or whether it would be part of the Twitter Blue premium offering, a new version of which launched one month ago… only to be hastily withdrawn soon thereafter.
Twitter Blue is a paid verification service that does not require accounts to be verified beforehand. This implies that anyone, as long as they pay $7.99 a month, is free to set up a Twitter Blue account under any name, and to have a blue tick placed next to that name as confirmation of authenticity.
Unfortunately, this service, when it was launched, led to a surge of users setting up bogus accounts, aimed at impersonating companies or setting up scams. The companies targeted included US pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, Musk’s own company Tesla, as well as high-profile individuals like Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg. The Eli Lilly impersonator was particularly disruptive when it released a post declaring ‘insulin is free now’.
The blue tick system is nothing new to Twitter, but it has, up to now, been a free- of-charge verification service, as opposed to a paid service with no verification process. In fact, the original system has been in use for 13 years as a means of verifying ‘notable’ account owners such as public figures, businesses, government entities, and journalists.
Before the Twitter Blue subscription service was launched, more than 400,000 Twitter accounts carried blue ticks against their name, identifying them as an authentic source. In fact, the ticks become something of a status symbol.
It seems that these 400,000 accounts will be able to retain their ticks without paying for them, but any new accounts must pay the monthly subscription fee for the service.
Experts had previously warned that Twitter Blue would be immediately exploited by bad actors and scammers, which would undoubtedly erode trust in the platform.
And they were right. Without the underlying account verification process, the ticks are worthless, and even damaging. In fact, they could be likened to attaching a genuine security label to a counterfeit product.