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Musk sows more Twitter chaos, now with Official policy snafu

Today's messes: a possible crypto venture; blue tick blackflips; advertiser assurances; and a promise to try dumb things

The Twitter "Official" label that showed up on the platform yesterday as a way to fix an arguably unbroken verification system has apparently disappeared from many accounts in less than 24 hours.

The gray "Official" label was announced as a way to differentiate verified accounts from Twitter Blue subscribers, all of whom get the formerly exclusive blue check mark. 

Pro YouTuber and ultimate Frisbee player Marques Brownlee posted about the change when he noticed the "Official" label below his Twitter handle, along with his blue check. When Brownlee then saw it had disappeared, he received a snappy reply from Musk.

"I just killed it," Musk tweeted. "Blue check will be the great leveler," he added. 

But that doesn't appear to be the case, at least according to Esther Crawford, Twitter's director of product management. When asked about the status of the Official label, Crawford said it will still be a part of the Twitter Blue launch, and that Twitter will initially focus on awarding it to government and commercial entities. "What you saw [Musk] mention was the fact that we're not focusing on giving individuals the 'Official' label right now." 

As ever with the now-Musky social network, the situation is fluid and developing.

Emergency Twitter Spaces meeting only adds to the confusion

Whether Musk's proclamation that Twitter will operate on the premise of "see what sticks" will reassure advertisers that have fled the platform is unclear.

For now, chaos looks like the new normal.

In a page right out of Damage Control 101, Musk was present on an hour-long Twitter Spaces broadcast in which he answered questions from Twitter's VP of US client solutions, Robin Wheeler. 

"Our commitment to all of you [advertisers] has not changed," Wheeler said at the start of the call. Twitter's advertising teams are still working, Wheeler said, adding that Twitter's content moderation and brand safety policies have been retained. 

Musk also made a number of reassurances to advertisers on the call, including saying that Twitter is picking up the pace of tech changes and admitting that seeing hate speech next to an advertisement probably isn't great for a brand's reputation. 

The Tesla tycoon had previously threatened to name and shame advertisers leaving the platform over content moderation concerns. 

In a further confusing moment, Musk spilled the beans about another major Twitter change: the filing of paperwork to register the social media platform as a payment processor with the US Treasury Department. 

Welcome back to 1999 and his PayPal days.

Whether those payments would include cryptocurrencies like Musk's sometime-favorite, Dogecoin, is unclear, though Twitter has reportedly recently stopped working on a crypto wallet – which may indicate cryptocurrency payments have been abandoned on the platform, or folded into a larger payment processing system.

It's an odd time for Musk to get back into the digital payments game, especially if cryptocurrency is involved. The crypto market was recently rocked by the collapse of crypto exchange FTX and a resulting plunge in the values of cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin, for instance, today dropped below $17,000 for the first time in two years.

Cryptocurrencies may fall even further – Binance, which was planning to rescue FTX with a buyout, has been reconsidering its position after spending a day examining FTX's internal documents, indicating things may be even worse there than they appear from the outside.

But wait: There's more blue check changes

Amidst the chaos, another change appeared on Twitter today to further complicate how verification works: "legacy" verified users – those that met the old "active, notable and authentic" criteria – will get to keep their check marks. 

Starting now, the only way to buy a check mark is to pay $8 a month for Twitter Blue, which was made available for iOS users and removed from Android in a recent update. This may not yet be available in your country. There's no verification criteria to get the new check mark other than payment, though clicking on the check on an account will show why it has one.

That is to say: if someone taps on your tick in your profile page in Twitter's mobile app, it will say if you paid for the check mark or were granted it. Also, crucially, if you don't subscribe to Blue, your tweets won't appear so high in search results, replies, and mentions. So you have to pay to not be buried on the site.

It's fee speech rather than the free speech Musk promised. ®

PS: It didn't take long for people to buy blue ticks for $8, via Twitter Blue, and then impersonate Nintendo of America and other brands. Twitter said it will try to keep an eye out for impostors and asked for users to report trolls.

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