Twitter gives peek at new pay-for-verification scheme

Twitter appeared to be launching an overhaul of its “blue check” system for verifying users on Saturday, with a message on Apple’s app store offering a new $7.99 subscription to “Twitter Blue,” including an automatic blue checkmark for subscribers’ accounts.

With just three days before midterm elections, and one day after layoffs cut the company’s staff in half, new owner Elon Musk has been sending jitters through the political and media landscape for the possibility that the platform could see a surge in disinformation and bogus accounts.

It was unclear if the program was intended to be live, or simply in a partial rollout phase on Saturday. It did not appear to be working: A previously unverified reporter signed up for the new service Saturday. Their card was charged $4.99 monthly instead of the advertised $7.99 monthly, and a blue check did not appear alongside their name on the app.

Twitter did not respond to multiple requests for comment. A Twitter user identified as employee Esther Crawford cautioned that the new service was not yet live, and that Android and other platforms would be available sometime after iOS.

Although Twitter’s verification program started well outside of politics — it was a response to a fake account pretending to be former baseball manager Tony LaRussa – the system has come to be seen as a brake on viral misinformation and an important filter in the American information ecosystem. It has also come in for criticism, often from right-wing populists, who deride “blue-checkists” as a cabal of elites trying to protect their status.

Musk, who has promised to open Twitter up to more freewheeling and less moderated conversation, has proposed the new subscription as one of many new plans to make more money for the debt-laden company he took over last week.