Musk: Paid checkmarks won’t return until Twitter can stop impersonation

When Elon Musk first launched his Twitter Blue subscription service, the whole point was to make it possible to buy the blue checkmark as a coveted status symbol. Now, the billionaire is backtracking (for now, at least), announcing in a tweet that the relaunch of Blue Verified checkmarks will be delayed, and likely when it does roll out, checkmarks distinguishing between Blue Verified subscribers and official verified accounts will be different colors.

“Holding off relaunch of Blue Verified until there is high confidence of stopping impersonation,” Musk tweeted. “Will probably use different color check for organizations than individuals.”

Many Twitter users suggested this obvious solution before the fake-account scandal found the platform sprinkled with popular but chaotic brand impersonations. That ultimately led Musk to revoke the option to pay $8 for a Blue Verified subscription.

Musk’s tweet doesn’t make it clear how different color checks for organizations versus individuals would actually prevent impersonation of individuals. Twitter staff initially warned him that scammers would use Blue Verified to impersonate world leaders or public figures, but Musk ignored that advice at the time. If he’s still seeking to salvage his original idea of selling the checkmark to subscribers on the basis of ordinary users striving for a celebrity status marker, there still seems to be a risk that fake accounts could harm individual users.

Just this week, for example, Vice reported that a fake account used Blue Verified to impersonate FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried. That fake account relied on a deepfake video pretending to be showing Bankman-Fried promising to refund victims of the FTX scandal by enrolling them in a cryptocurrency giveaway that would help them not only regain lost funds, but double their money.

Relying on the video and Twitter’s verified checkmark, the fake account tricked users into visiting the cryptocurrency giveaway and sending tokens to the scammer. In return, Twitter users who were scammed got nothing, Vice reported.

In this particular case, Bankman-Fried’s victims were targeted for the crypto scam, but more commonly these types of scams rely on fake celebrity endorsements. If Blue Verified doesn’t distinguish between celebrities’ official accounts and fakes, it’s easy to see how these crypto scams could become a bigger problem for Twitter.

Reuters reported that Musk had originally planned to revive Blue Verified next week, but his latest tweet suggests that the wait will be longer.

See more: Elon Musk drives nearly one million Twitter users to competitor with a single tweet

Musk planning to launch other Twitter 2.0 features

It makes sense for Musk to focus on protecting brands from impersonation as a priority in his relaunch of Blue Verified, as Twitter can’t churn profits without reassuring advertisers. But Musk also has other big ideas, and he has told his dwindled team of engineers that he will require long hours from them to help evolve the platform.

The Verge obtained a recording of a meeting Musk held Monday, reporting that Musk’s new vision of Twitter 2.0 is a service where private messages are totally private. To Musk, that means all direct messages are encrypted, so he plans to work with Signal. According to Musk, Signal is “potentially” interested in helping Musk make sure that: “I can’t look at anyone’s DMs if somebody has put a gun to my head.”

Signal, however, told Ars that the company has not been in any official talks with Musk.

“Signal has not been working with Twitter on this effort,” Meredith Whittaker, president of Signal, told Ars. “We do believe that more private communications are a net good, and we are interested to see how Twitter tackles the complexity of creating usable, encrypted DMs across the web and mobile.”

In addition to encrypted DMs, Musk wants to add encrypted voice and video chat features.

“We want to enable users to be able to communicate without being concerned about their privacy, [or] without being concerned about a data breach at Twitter causing all of their DMs to hit the web, or think that maybe someone at Twitter could be spying on their DMs,” Musk told Twitter staff.

For anyone keeping track, this means that in addition to launching potential paid features—like sending a celebrity a DM or viewing exclusive videos from content creators—basic fixes—like improving Twitter search—and bold ideas—like turning Twitter into the next PayPal—Musk is also hoping to make Twitter a go-to messenger for users. He’ll do this, he told his team, by diverging from other messaging services and making it so Twitter users do not have to share actual phone numbers to communicate.

“You don’t have to give someone your phone number,” Musk told employees.

It seems that, ideally in Musk’s world, Twitter handles would become each user’s entire online identity—something obviously worth paying $8 monthly for, just as soon as he figures out this whole impersonation thing.

Source: Ars Technica