Elon Musk has responded to Stephen King’s horrified reaction at his reported plan to charge all verified users for their blue checkmark — and in the process, confirmed the surprising and controversial idea is in the works.
On Monday, King went viral with his reaction to a report that Musk wanted to charge verified users a whopping $20 per month to keep their checkmark status. “$20 a month to keep my blue check?” King tweeted to his 6.9 million followers. “Fuck that, they should pay me. If that gets instituted, I’m gone like Enron.” When a reader told King he could afford the fee, the best-selling author replied, “It ain’t the money, it’s the principle of the thing.”
FiveThirtyEight political guru Nate Silver similarly wrote to his 3.5 million followers: “I’m probably the perfect target for this, use Twitter a ton, can afford $20/mo, not particularly anti-Elon, but my reaction is that I’ve generated a ton of valuable free content for Twitter over the years and they can go fuck themselves.”
Early Tuesday, Musk responded to the uproar, replying directly to King: “We need to pay the bills somehow! Twitter cannot entirely rely on advertisers. How about $8?”
Musk then suggested that additional clarity on the matter is still to come: “I will explain the rationale in longer form before this is implemented. It is the only way to defeat the bots & trolls.”
Still later, Musk seemed to double down on the idea — and his suggested lower pricetag — by framing the fee as populist empowerment: “Twitter’s current lords & peasants system for who has or doesn’t have a blue checkmark is bullshit. Power to the people! Blue for $8/month.”
Critics have pointed out that verified accounts are not simply a free perk for a certain level of user, but rather a utility that makes the wild-west social media platform/hellscape more credible. Blue checks help everyday readers (as well as journalists) determine whether a comment being made by a purported public figure is actually from that person instead of a fan or impersonator. It is, in other words, a way of preventing the spread of fake news. TechCrunch dubbed Musk’s idea a potential “misinformation nightmare.”
“Musk and his buddies view this plan as a way to get people to actually give Twitter money,” TechCrunch noted. “But by monetizing a symbol that currently has value, they will ultimately remove all of that existing value.”
According to The Verge, Musk’s plan is to convert the $4.99 optional premium service Twitter Blue — which allows users to edit their tweets — into a mandatory program for those wanting to retain their verified status. Users would have 90 days to subscribe to the new program or will lose their blue checkmark. Musk reportedly told employees assigned to the program overall they would need to implement the new rules by Nov. 7, or they would be fired. No new program has yet been officially announced, however.
Previously, Musk had tweeted: “The whole verification process is being revamped right now.”