Since Elon Musk acquired Twitter in October, the social media platform has made many tweaks to the user experience, including an overhaul to the verification process and an emphasis on “freedom of speech.”
Since Elon Musk’s highly publicized — and controversial — acquisition of Twitter in October, he’s made a series of updates to the platform, often live-tweeting them along the way.
Among the most notable changes is the overhaul to the verification process: Previously, blue checkmarks denoted public figures that the platform had independently verified, but now users can purchase a verified checkmark by subscribing to Twitter Blue for $8 per month.
After declaring Twitter’s new policy to be “freedom of speech” in which negative or hate tweets will be “deboosted,” but not banned, Musk reinstated a number of accounts that were notably suspended, including Donald Trump, Jordan Peterson and Kathy Griffin (Musk reinstated Trump’s account after conducting a poll on Twitter — 51.8% of the 15 million respondents voted “yes” to return the former president’s account).
Each tweet now publicly displays how many views it has garnered, an update Musk made in an effort to show how “Twitter is much more alive than people think.”
Twitter now splits a user’s timeline between a TikTok-esque “for you” page, an algorithm-curated feed with tweets it thinks the user will like, and a “following” page, which consists solely of tweets that user follows.
Twitter backtracked from a short-lived policy banning users from sharing links to other social media platforms — after less than a day of backlash, the platform deleted the policy from its website.
NEW VERIFICATION PROCESS
One of the biggest — and most widely ridiculed — Musk-era Twitter updates is his drastic change to the verification process. Previously, blue verification badges confirmed that profiles of public figures, like celebrities, journalists or government officials, were legitimate. Those blue checks (which Twitter now refers to as “legacy” verified accounts) are still visible, but the platform has made blue checks available to anyone so long as they subscribe to Twitter Blue, a service that permits users to preview new features. There’s no visual difference between the old and new blue checkmarks, which has raised concerns that people may impersonate public figures (though hovering over or tapping on the blue check reveals whether the account is subscribed to Twitter Blue or is a legacy verified account). Within hours of the new blue checks launching, users purchased checkmarks to impersonate people including Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and Kobe Bryant, CNN reported. A Washington Post columnist got accounts impersonating comedian Blaire Erskine and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) verified within minutes. Twitter temporarily suspended the ability to purchase a blue check the following day, pledging to address impersonation issues. Musk has said he plans to get rid of legacy verified checkmarks, claiming that the old process of verification was “corrupt and nonsensical.” In another shakeup to the verification system, accounts owned by companies are denoted by gold checks while government entities and politicians are marked with gray checks.
CRITICISM OVER UPDATES
Musk’s changes to the platform have been criticized for a number of reasons, ranging from being unnecessary and annoying to opening the door for hate speech. The ability of anyone to purchase verification has been condemned for making it easy to impersonate public figures and spread misinformation. In January, members of the Taliban purchasedblue checks, though these were later removed following backlash. Musk also came under fire in December after Twitter suspended the accounts of several journalists who were critical of his ownership of the company (Musk tweeted these accounts “doxxed my exact location in real time”), though these accounts were later reinstated. Criticisms of the verification process as well as Musk’s massive layoffs have prompted more than 500 advertisers to pause spending on Twitter, The Information reported, causing a 40% drop in daily revenue. Some popular Twitter influencers told NBC News that daily use of the platform has gotten worse under Musk’s leadership, including an influx of hate speech in light of its new emphasis on freedom of speech, as well as an uptick in technical glitches as the company’s staff has been halved. These influencers — including Matt Nelson, who runs “We Rate Dogs,” an account with 9.3 million followers — told NBC News the verified notifications feature, which displays notifications received by verified accounts, is no longer useful as anyone can pay for a blue checkmark. The default “for you” feed has also angered some users who find the update unnecessary and now see tweets they are uninterested in. LGBTQ advocacy groups have also alleged that the platform’s “freedom of speech” approach is worsening anti-transgender speech on the platform. Among the accounts reinstated under Musk’s tenure are the Babylon Bee, a Christian satire news site, and author Jordan Peterson, who has previously made transphobic tweets, Bloomberg reported.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Musk has discussed future updates that have yet to debut on the platform. He will increase the current 280 character limit to 4,000 in February — a massive increase for the platform long known for its brevity — and users will soon be able to use formatting features like bold, underline, and font sizes, a move Musk hopes will keep people on Twitter instead of using other websites to publish work. The company is also considering selling usernames that have been dormant for years to free up the handles and generate revenue.
After months of back-and-forth and the threat of going to trial, Musk purchased Twitter in October in a highly publicized $44 million dollar deal. He quickly slashed the company’s workforce, claiming that it could go bankrupt and needed to become “hard core” in order to survive, and began implementing his “free speech” vision for the platform. Musk had previously criticized Twitter’s prior leadership, alleging they operated the platform with a “left-wing bias.”
WHAT WE DON’T KNOW
Will Musk actually step down as CEO of Twitter? He tweeted in December he will step down when he finds someone “foolish enough” to succeed him and will then run the company’s software and servers teams. He asked via Twitter poll if he should step down, stating he would “abide by the results of this poll” — and “yes” won a clear victory, securing 57.5% of the poll’s 17.5 million votes. Musk has not provided updates or a timeline on the search for a successor since creating the poll.
$149.4 billion. That’s Musk’s net worth as of Wednesday according to the Forbes real-time net worth tracker, making him the second-richest person in the world behind French fashion tycoon Bernard Arnault and his family. Musk fell from his prior position as the world’s richest person in December.
By Conor Murray, Forbes Staff