Twitter restores 'official' label; US$8 blue check mark option vanishes

New Twitter boss Elon Musk had allowed users to pay for the blue check mark that was previously reserved for verified accounts. PHOTO: REUTERS

SAN FRANCISCO - Twitter Inc on Friday brought back the “official” badge to some accounts, just days after doing away with it, while several users reported that the new subscription option for the blue verification check mark had disappeared.

The move follows a surge in fake accounts on the platform after new boss Elon Musk allowed users to pay US$8 (S$11) for the coveted blue check mark that was previously reserved for verified accounts of politicians, actors and other major personalities.

“To combat impersonation, we’ve added an ‘Official’ label to some accounts,” Twitter’s support account – which has the “official” tag – tweeted on Friday. Mr Musk on Wednesday tweeted that he had “killed” the new label, just hours after rolling it out.

Fake accounts of several big brands, including Mr Musk’s Tesla and SpaceX, as well as Roblox, Nestle and Lockheed Martin, have popped up with the blue check.

Drugmaker Eli Lilly and Co issued an apology after an imposter account tweeted that insulin would be free, amid political backlash and scrutiny into the high prices of the medicine.

“We apologise to those who have been served a misleading message from a fake Lilly account,” the company said, reiterating the name of its Twitter handle.

Among other examples, a number of misleading tweets about Tesla from a verified account with the same profile picture as the company’s official account were being circulated on the platform.

“Twitter has, over the past several years, worked to try to improve that (misinformation). And it seems like Elon Musk has unravelled it within a matter of weeks,” Assistant Professor A. J. Bauer, of the University of Alabama’s Journalism and Creative Media Department, said.

Mr Musk had said Twitter users engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying it as a “parody” account will be permanently suspended without a warning. Several fake brand accounts, including those of Nintendo and BP, have been suspended.

Meanwhile, many users said the option to sign up for Twitter Blue, the subscription service that comes with blue check verification, had disappeared.

Twitter did not reply to a request for comment on that.

Earlier in the day, Mr Musk said his companies will be well-positioned in 2023 despite the possibility of a tough economy.

His tweet came a day after he brought up the likelihood of Twitter going bankrupt.

In his first company-wide e-mail, Mr Musk warned that Twitter would not be able to “survive the upcoming economic downturn” if it fails to boost subscription revenue to offset falling advertising income, three people who saw the message told Reuters.

Many companies, including General Motors and United Airlines, have paused or pulled back from advertising on the platform after Mr Musk took over. In response, the billionaire said on Wednesday that he aimed to turn Twitter into a force for truth and stop fake accounts. REUTERS

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