(NEW YORK) — Twitter Blue, the newly revamped subscription service that allows users to access verification if they pay a monthly fee of $8, appeared to be unavailable on the company’s Apple iOS app for at least some users on Friday. A rise of fake accounts on the platform had coincided with the rollout of Twitter Blue two days earlier.
The flood of fake accounts impersonating public figures and brands on Twitter after the the launch of paid verification badges prompted the company to reinstate a second layer of “official” tags on Thursday, the company said in a statement.
Impostor accounts posed as a slew of well-known people and companies, including basketball star LeBron James, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, gaming company Nintendo of America and even Tesla, the electric vehicle maker run by Twitter’s owner, Elon Musk.
On Wednesday, the company said it had opted against a second layer of verification for some prominent accounts that would add an “official” tag as a means of distinguishing them from impostors. A day later, the company said that it had reversed course and would add the “official” label to some accounts.
Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, a Democrat, said Friday that his account was among the well-known users that had been impersonated.
“Safeguards like blue checks let users be smart, critical consumers of news and information in Twitter’s global town square,” Markey said. “Truth can’t be put on sale for $8.”
Previously, the company verified celebrities, politicians, journalists and prominent figures on a case-by-case basis in an effort to prevent impersonation.
Musk, who acquired Twitter late last month, has already made dramatic changes: firing top executives, laying off half of the company’s staff and forming a content moderation council that will review account reinstatements. The rise of fake accounts after the launch of the new subscription service marks a significant shift in the core product and user experience.
The company has vowed to permanently suspend accounts that take part in impersonation without clearly labeling it a parody account. But recent mass layoffs, which affected employees who work in content moderation, have raised concerns over Twitter’s capacity and willingness to police users.
In protest of the impersonation risks posed by the new subscription service, high-profile users like comedian Kathy Griffin over the weekend changed their usernames to “Elon Musk.” Griffin was suspended from Twitter and remained off the platform as of Tuesday afternoon.
Musk later said Griffin could regain access to her account by joining the revamped subscription service, but it was unclear if the offer was sincere.
The rollout of the new subscription offering was planned for Sunday but the company opted to delay the release until Wednesday, the day after the midterm elections, after some users and advocates raised fears over its implications for election integrity.
Amid changes on the platform, several advertisers have paused their presence on Twitter since Musk took ownership, including Pfizer, General Motors and United Airlines.
Musk, who said he overpaid for the platform at the purchasing price of $44 billion, faces pressure to boost the company’s revenue. Last week, he said that the company is losing $4 million each day.
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