Less than two days after Twitter’s first attempt to charge for account verification ended in disaster, Elon Musk announced the company is working on a new way to authenticate users. On Sunday afternoon, he tweeted the social media website would soon begin rolling out a feature that will allow organizations to identify accounts that are “actually” associated with them.
Rolling out soon, Twitter will enable organizations to identify which other Twitter accounts are actually associated with them
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 13, 2022
Musk didn’t say as much, but the feature is almost certainly a partial response to the problems the platform encountered this past week. After the company began rolling out its new $8 per month Twitter Blue subscription on Wednesday, the website was quickly overrun by trolls who used the service to impersonate celebrities and brands. In particular, the situation was a nightmare for businesses and advertisers. As one example, pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly’s stock fell by 4.37 percent on Friday after a fake "verified" account said the company was making insulin free. The prank erased about $15 billion from Eli Lilly’s market cap and forced an apology from it.
The announcement would seem to indicate Musk is coming to terms with the fact that a social media platform can’t exist without content moderation. When a user asked him if anyone would be able to use the upcoming feature, Musk responded: “Ultimately, I think there is no choice but for Twitter to be the final arbiter, but I’m open to suggestions.”
That’s something he probably wouldn’t have said before taking over Twitter. Prior to closing the deal, Musk cast himself as a free speech “absolutist.” During his recent TED Talk appearance, he said he was in favor of very little content moderation. “If in doubt, let the speech… let it exist. If it’s a gray area, I would say let the tweet exist,” he said at the time. The problem with that approach is that it has led to an advertiser exodus and a significant drop in revenue for the company. That’s not something Twitter can sustain with its current debt load.