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Twitter stops Blue subscription in its tracks due to mass abuse of service – for now


After a bunch of pranksters, fraudsters, extremists, and conspiracy theorists had exploited the new Twitter Blue paid verification service, the company paused it. Elon Musk says it will probably be back by the end of the week, though.

Twitter has paused its $7.99 per month Blue subscription service after it was abused en masse by impersonators who targeted both famous people and brands. As of last Friday, the Twitter app on iOS does not show an option to sign up for Twitter Blue.

On the one hand, the suspension demonstrates it will be hard for Musk, the new owner of Twitter, to generate additional revenue from users.

But, also, the company had probably had enough with a band of pranksters creating imposter accounts on Twitter and flooding the platform with misinformation. The amount of the latter has been huge, and advertisers are already pausing spending.

Some of the imposter accounts, created by the paid Blue subscribers, were, and are innocent enough. But others actually hurt brands financially while radicals enjoyed a Twitter Blue feature, giving them priority ranking for “quality content” – and a platform to spread hate and conspiracies.

For example, an account resembling pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly caused a serious problem for the company when it tweeted out, “we are excited insulin is free now.” Eli Lilly’s stock price dropped sharply immediately.

Meanwhile, Media Matters for America reported that several users now have a blue checkmark through a paid subscription, even though they had been previously banned or suspended from Twitter.

These include an anti-LGBTQ account Libs of TikTok, a profile of an anti-trans group Gays Against Groomers, or an account of a white supremacist Richard Spencer. These accounts had all been banned from the platform at least several times in the past but are active as of November 14.

Twitter Blue has now been suspended, and the company urgently added an “official” label – which Musk had previously “killed” – to some brand accounts, Twitter’s support account tweeted on Friday.

Musk himself said in a tweet that Twitter Blue would probably come back by the end of the week, presumably when the problems the platform keeps getting into are fixed.

skryn-blue-support
Elon Musk says Twitter Blue will be back.

Yet the billionaire is seemingly still enjoying the life of a Twitter troll. Musk got into a spat with an influential US senator Ed Markey over the weekend, for instance.

When a Washington Post columnist successfully impersonated Markey on Twitter last week, the senator publicly criticized the Twitter Blue policy in an official letter and urged Musk to explain how the impersonation happened.

“Perhaps it is because your real account sounds like a parody?” Musk wrote in response.

Senator Markey, a Democrat, who will work in a Democratic Senate, then threatened to crack down on Musk’s companies.

A number of congressional committees could indeed decide to investigate Musk and ask him to testify. Among those is the Senate Commerce Committee, which Markey sits in. He has already called for greater scrutiny of Tesla, also owned by Musk in the past.

This year, after investigations by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice (DoJ), Twitter was fined $150 million for continuously misusing user data over six years. The FTC regularly audits Twitter and probes how the company earns revenue.


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