Elon Musk has defended his reported plan to introduce a $19.99 monthly charge for verified Twitter users to retain their blue badges following a wave of criticism from celebrities on the platform.
The Tesla CEO’s deal to acquire the company, which closed last week following a tumultuous few months of anticipation, has been praised by right-wing figures who have accused the platform of exercising a bias against conservatives.
Musk, 51, immediately made big changes behind the scenes by firing several top executives at the social media company, including CEO Parag Agrawal and head of legal Vijaya Gadde—the latter of whom was publicly criticized by the South African-born billionaire.
As the social media world waits for new changes to the platform under Musk, who has talked about prioritizing free speech on the platform, The Verge on Sunday published an article saying that those with verified accounts may now have to start paying.
“The blue Verified badge on Twitter lets people know that an account of public interest is authentic,” Twitter said about its verification requirements. “To receive the blue badge, your account must be authentic, notable and active.”
Musk tweeted on Sunday: “The whole verification process is being revamped right now.”
Part of that proposed revamping would be changing Twitter Blue, the platform’s optional, $4.99-per-month subscription that gives users additional features, according to The Verge. Plans are reportedly in the works to increase the monthly price to $19.99, with verified losers having 90 days to subscribe or lose their blue badge.
The reported proposal has led to a backlash among some verified users on Twitter. Comedian Kathy Griffin made clear her feelings on the matter when she tweeted to her followers on Monday: “Like, I like you guys and all, but not $20.00 a month like. Inflation!”
Asked by one of her followers which platform she would defect to, Griffin responded: “I am enjoying [TikTok]. I will look into blue sky and I think there’s two other ones people are talking about.”
Another Twitter user said that they suspected “the Musk plan is to float $20 so when he lands at $5 it seems reasonable.”
“Agree,” Griffin wrote back in a since-deleted tweet. “I don’t think it’s that blue check people are too cheap to pay 20 bucks a month, I just don’t wanna give any money to Elon Musk and the Saudi family. I’ll stay until the midterms. In the meantime, I’m signing up for all other sites until we can settle on one.”
Responding to Griffin’s earlier comments, another Twitter user said to the comedian that the platform depends “on Blue Checks for its popularity. Don’t pay anything.”
“Well, but then my acct and all blue checks will be cloned etc.,” Griffin wrote back. “Nonstop swarming. Having to disavow tweets attributed to me. No thanks. Plus Musk is [vomit emoji].”
Griffin wasn’t alone in her criticism, with Wonder Woman star Lynda Carter sharing side-by-side photos of her superhero character and her undercover alter ego, Diana Prince, writing: “Twitter with verification vs. Twitter when I refuse to pay $20 a month for it.”
When another Twitter user made a sarcastic quip about “multimillionaires” not being able to “afford” the $20 price tag, Carter responded: “It’s almost as if I care about things that negatively affect other people.”
Also weighing in on the matter was author Stephen King, who tweeted in response to the report: “$20 a month to keep my blue check? F*** that, they should pay me. If that gets instituted, I’m gone like Enron.”
His tweet caught the eye of Musk, who defended the plan when he wrote to King: “We need to pay the bills somehow! Twitter cannot rely entirely on advertisers. How about $8?”
Musk added in a follow-up tweet that he will “explain the rationale in longer form before this is implemented. It is the only way to defeat the bots & trolls.”
Mrs. Doubtfire screenwriter Randi Mayem Singer sided with King on the matter, tweeting that the author “makes a gazillion times more for his words, but the idea of asking even me to pay to provide even my stupid content—along with knowing there will suddenly be 1000s of ‘verified’ but fake ‘Stephen King’s—proves Elon does not understand the thing he just paid $44B for.”
Singer also quipped: “Soon a blue check on Twitter will be as meaningful as a police badge on Herschel Walker.”
Journalist Kara Swisher also expressed her objections to the plan in a lengthy thread in which she compared the proposed cost to cheaper subscriptions for such services as Netflix, Amazon, Disney+ and Apple Music.
“In fact, I would not pay a dime for verification,” Swisher wrote at the end of her thread. “In fact, social media should pay its creators and treat them with respect, instead of unleashing knuckleheads on them. Like I said, f*** that.”
“I am not paying $240 a year to be verified. Absolutely the f*** not,” said gun control activist David Hogg in reaction to the pending change.
“Verified people are a major reason why many people are on twitter in the first place,” Hogg continued. “If anything they should be paying us. Verified accounts bring people to twitter and help with ad revenue.”
He went on: “A major reason twitter has stagnated in user growth in my view is because it’s just not a great platform for people to post about their daily lives the way Instagram is,” Hogg wrote. “It’s most useful for journalists, political people and celebrities. All of whom are mostly verified.
“Many other social platforms pay content makers twitter is one of the few that doesn’t,” he added.
Newsweek has reached out to representatives of Twitter for comment.
Musk agreed in April to buy Twitter and promised to install less strict content restrictions and crack down on spam accounts. But changed his mind in July and tried to back out from the deal, saying that he was misled about the number of fake accounts on the platform.
There are expectations that Musk will reinstate the account of former President Donald Trump, who was permanently banned from Twitter over fears he would use the platform to incite further violence after the U.S. Capitol riot on January 6, 2021.
Following his takeover, Musk said he intends to scrap Twitter’s policy of issuing lifelong bans from the platform because he does not believe in permanent prohibitions, an unnamed source told Bloomberg.
Since the deal closed, Twitter has reportedly seen a rise in hate speech, which has been condemned by some celebrities. Musk has also suggested reviving the defunct video platform Vine.