Twitter further restricts free tier with option to limit replies to verified accounts
The digital town square, but with more pay-to-play curbs
On the social media site formerly known as Twitter, you can now opt to allow only paying verified accounts to reply to your tweets. Again, it's more fee speech than free speech for this Elon Musk-owned outfit.
"You can now limit replies to verified users," X's official account said on Monday.
The announcement triggered a near-instant stream of responses from netizens noting that, rather than addressing the spam, scam, and bot problems Musk has long said is the reason paid verification is needed, it's likely to just make things worse since so many scammers have bought into X Premium, the platform’s subscription service.
"Verified. [You] mean blue tick? Most scammers and bots," one respondent said, while another noted Musk's "online town square" is increasingly a closed members-only community. Some replies to X’s announcement asked for an option to instead block verified users from responding to their posts, so low is the quality of some verified accounts.
X has been accused of allowing hate speech, disinformation, and plain-old spam to run rampant on the platform since Musk's acquisition. The European Union recently named the social network as having the highest ratio of disinformation among large social media platforms.
Musk's actions appear not to be addressing such concerns. Instead, X has made changes that could serve to amplify disinformation and malicious content, such as last week's move to remove headlines presented alongside links to articles. Doing so means users see only posters’ take on content, making it more likely they could encounter disinformation.
The move to block non-paying users could do the same as paid X users include a wide range of problematic accounts.
We asked X for the reasoning behind the latest change, and the service’s media relations account returned only an automated message.
Musk’s changes at X are aimed at making money, or juicing statistics. Removing headlines in posts, for example, shrinks the screen real estate occupied by each title and ends up displaying more posts at a time, thereby increasing statistical engagement. Musk also said last week the move would have the effect of keeping users on the site by giving links "less attention." Which is what advertisers like to hear because it increases the likelihood users will stick around and have their attention captured by an ad.
Removing previously free features and locking them behind a paywall is likely another attempt to give people a reason to fork over $8 a month for X Premium.
Can X's CEO explain?
Since Musk bought the platform a little less than a year ago, X's ad revenue has plummeted, as brands decide they’d rather not appear on a site that’s increasingly notorious for hosting problematic speech and disinformation, and lacks brand safety assurances.
It's unclear whether the site's finances are recovering, though in a meeting last week with banks that backed Musk’s purchase, CEO Linda Yaccarino, ostensibly brought on to help with the ad revenue dive, reportedly said X won "high-single digit revenue growth" in Q3. That figure was only compared to Q2 of this year, meaning X could very well still be in the red given its ad revenue was reportedly still down by 60 percent as of last month.
- Twitter now worth just a third of what Musk paid for it
- For whom the bell polls: Twitter voting is for Blue users only now
- While Twitter wants to sell its verification, Microsoft will do it for free on LinkedIn
- Twitter adds new DM features, and Musk claims encryption is here, starting today
Yaccarino has recently proven to be nearly as elusive as her billionaire boss, and last week backed out of The Wall Street Journal's Tech Live event.
According to the newspaper's Joanna Stern, X only told it Yaccarino would be unable to attend due to an unnamed global crisis, likely a reference to Hamas' attack on Israel last week.
"With the global crisis unfolding, Linda and her team must remain fully focused on X platform safety," X reportedly told the WSJ.
How busy Yaccarino and crew are working on safety is debatable, with reports over the weekend finding that X has failed to uniformly control the spread of misinformation regarding the Israel-Hamas conflict. ®