Less than a week after his acquisition of Twitter was completed, the world’s richest man took to the social media platform to reveal details of his plans to change direction and claimed Monty Python’s satirical humour had served as inspiration.
Elon Musk revealed plans to shake up the company’s verified user service, which had previously provided a free blue checkmark to high-profile users who could prove their identity. Politicians and journalists have claimed this has been beneficial in preventing imposters from spreading disinformation.
"Twitter’s current lords & peasants system for who has or doesn’t have a blue checkmark is bullshit," said Musk in a tweet on Tuesday. "Power to the people! Blue for $8/month."
A few hours earlier, Musk had mentioned a potential fee of US$20 per month but appeared to back-track shortly after exchanging messages with horror author Stephen King, who tweeted: “$20 a month to keep my blue check? F--k that, they should pay me. If that gets instituted, I’m gone like Enron.”
The new Twitter CEO - or self-styled Twitter Complaint Hotline Operator, according to his Twitter profile; location: “Hell” - followed up within the hour with more details about the new Twitter Blue service. These included the fact that the price would be adjusted on a country-by-country basis proportionate to the perceived purchasing power in these nations.
Priority service is essential for defeating spam, says Musk
Musk said subscribers to the new service would also enjoy priority in replies, mentions and searches, which Musk claims is essential to defeating spam and scammers; the ability to post long video and audio content; and half as many ads.
Publishers willing to work with the new-look Twitter would receive a paywall pass, Musk explained, which he claims will give the company a revenue stream to reward content creators. A secondary tag below a user's name would also be added for public figures, which is already the case for politicians, said Musk in a later tweet.
Musk continued to troll users while encouraging feedback on Wednesday - three tweets in quick succession shared his thoughts that "Twitter speaks to the inner masochist in all of us", that those complaining should continue doing so "but it will cost $8", and that he "totally stole [the] idea of charging for insults and arguments from Monty Python", linking to a YouTube video of John Cleese and Michael Palin performing a 1972 sketch in the third series of their BBC show.
In October, Musk tweeted that “Buying Twitter is an accelerant to creating X, the everything app”, which industry observers took to be a nod to WeChat, an app that has become a central part of everyday life in China since its introduction in 2011.
The new Twitter team is also said to be planning to revive the looping-video app Vine in the next two months, according to Axios, which will take them up against TikTok. Musk discussed Vine in the months leading up to his Twitter acquisition, sources reported, and on Sunday he launched a Twitter poll asking if it should be brought back.
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