TThe Federal Trade Commission warned Thursday that it is monitoring Twitter with “deep concern” following Elon Musk’s purchase of the social media platform. The day after Twitter monthly subscription check service went live, trolls have already begun flooding the site with accounts impersonating public figures — sometimes with hilarious results.
Twitter’s verification system was originally designed to increase trust on the platform and places a blue tick next to the username of public figures, companies, journalists and organizations. The blue tick can now be purchased for $7.99 a month, part of Musk’s drive to generate more cash for the company he bought last month for $44 billion.
So now a blue tick means the account is verified in the original system or “has an active Twitter Blue subscription”.
So far, TIME has found at least six verified accounts that have changed their name to Elon Musk. Many others, such as “Italian Elon Musk” riff on the billionaire’s name with insults. But Musk doesn’t seem to take the question too seriously, responding with laughing emoticons to a tweet that pointed out the spam in the app.
Meanwhile, the platform’s problems are mounting. Two senior executives resigned on Thursday, as first reported by the Platformer Zoe Schiffer and Casey Newtonand of Bloomberg Kurt Wagner. Just on Wednesday, those executives — Robin Wheeler and Yoel Roth — held a live Q&A with Musk designed to allay advertisers’ fears about security and misinformation.
An FTC spokesperson said: “We are following the recent developments at Twitter with deep concern. No CEO or company is above the law and companies must follow our consent decrees. Our revised consent order gives us new tools to ensure compliance, and we are ready to use them.
How the platform changes
Some users use their newly purchased blue tick to make insensitive comments while pretending to be important employees.
One Twitter user masquerading as former US President George W. Bush with hateful statements about Iraqis. The bill has since is stopped. Another user impersonating the verified Nintendo of America account, share an image Mario gives the middle finger. It was up for almost two hours before it was banned, The Verge reports.
Since Musk became CEO, the platform may have lost more than one million users, according to MIT Technology Review. On the other hand, downloads of the app have jumped, according to data.ai, an analytics platform. Globally, Twitter was downloaded 6.31 million times in the 10-day period after Musk officially acquired the company, up 22% from the 10 days prior.
How advertisers feel
On Wednesday, Musk, along with other Twitter employees from Twitter’s sales and integrity team, held a live discussion in Twitter Spaces to calm advertisers’ nerves about the future of the platform. Many major advertisers such as General Motors, United Airlines, Audi and General Mills have already pulled ads since Musk took over the platform, AP reports.
Musk said the new Twitter Blue will actually increase the safety of the platform because spammers and fraudsters will eventually run out of funds to buy verification, saying, “They’re going to need a lot of credit cards and a lot of phones. “
He promised that Twitter would remain useful to advertisers by making it easier to shop on the platform and creating tools to make ads more relevant. He also introduced the idea of users sending money through Twitter.
The CEO also promised that he will work hard to ensure that the hate speech that initially increased when Musk took over the company remains at bay. Yoel Roth, Twitter’s global head of safety and integrity, who reportedly resigned today, tweeted that the moderation team’s efforts are successful.
“We’re really going to agonize a lot about what’s right, what should be done, and sometimes we’re going to be wrong about it and we’re going to take corrective action,” Musk said. “If we’re doing a good job, we’ll see consumer interest high and advertiser growth strong.”
Musk blames activists for pushing advertisers to pull off the social media site. Advocacy organizations have wrote a letter calls on companies to withdraw from Twitter. But that’s not the only reason corporations are leaving the platform, said Lou Pascalis, president and chief operating officer of marketing trade association MMA Global.
“Marketers are guided by the principles of brand safety and suitability. The nasty tweets from the CEO, the instability in the technical support team to moderate content, etc. will force marketers to pause @Twitter ads. @elonmusk still doesn’t get this,” Pascalis tweeted.
Data from Media radar, an advertising intelligence platform, shows that since news of Musk’s purchase of the app broke in April, advertising on Twitter has declined. There was an initial spike seen in May, which they attribute to excitement over the purchase, but by August advertisers had declined to approximately 2,300 from the 3,500 seen in March.
Twitter — whose latest quarterly filing showed a $400 million loss, “excluding one-time gains from a sale in the first six months of this year,” Fortune reports— uses advertising revenue as its main source of revenue.
Performance and lack thereof
Changes in law enforcement have been swift and full of flip-flops. Musk before that tweeted that accounts impersonating public figures will be suspended. But reports show that some accounts were active for hours before Twitter took any action.
Twitter says that it will soon introduce a process that will make it harder for Twitter Blue subscribers to change their display name after receiving a blue check.
Twitter has also temporarily rolled out a second gray “official” checkmark that will help distinguish between real accounts. The feature was removed hours later, though Twitter product manager Esther Crawford indicated the feature will eventually be rolled out to “government and commercial entities.”
Accounts that were already verified prior to the launch of the new subscription feature still have a blue tick at this time. It’s not yet clear when those accounts will lose their blue check if they don’t subscribe to Twitter Blue, though Musk said this will happen in the next few months.
“Please be aware that Twitter is going to do a lot of stupid things in the coming months,” Musk tweeted Wednesday. “We’ll keep what works and change what doesn’t.”
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