New Twitter rules eliminate “remote” work and offer the blue check mark to anyone who can afford $8. But is it really as bad as it sounds.
In an email, Elon Musk made two important announcements: one regarding the $8 subscription plan for the blue check mark; and another regarding ending the “forever” remote work. I agree with the former and am unsure about the latter. Below is the email he sent to his Twitter staff.
From: Elon Musk [email removed] Date: Nov 9, 2022 [time stamp removed] To: Team Sorry that this is my first email to the whole company but there is no way to sugarcoat the message. Frankly, the economic picture ahead is dire especially for a company like ours that is so dependent on advertising in a challenging economic climate. Moreover, 70% of our advertising is brand, rather than specific performance, which makes us doubly vulnerable! That is why the priority over the past ten days has been to develop and launch Twitter Blue Verified subscriptions (huge props to the team!). Without significant subscription revenue, there is a good chance Twitter will not survive the upcoming economic downturn. We need roughly half of our revenue to be subscription. Of course, we will still then be significantly reliant on advertising, so I am spending time with our sales & partnerships teams to ensure that Twitter continues to be appealing to advertisers. This is the Spaces discussion that Robin, Yoel and I hosted today: [Link to Elon Q&A: Advertising & the Future removed] The road ahead is arduous and will require intense work to succeed. We are also changing Twitter policy such that remote work is no longer allowed unless you have a specific exception. Managers will send the exception lists to me for review and approval. Starting tomorrow (Thursday), everyone is required to be in the office for a minimum of 40 hours per week. Obviously, if you are physically unable to travel to an office or have a critical personal obligation, then your absence is understandable. I look forward to working with you to take Twitter to a whole new level. The potential is truly incredible! Thanks, Elon Source @ CNBC
Since Twitter (Elon) announced new Twitter rules, people on both sides have been (mostly) complaining. But I have not come across articles that would subjectively criticise the new rules. Instead, everybody is taking a shot at insulting and mocking the new Twitter boss as if its a contest. (Perhaps because of his conservative views?)
While, on the surface, it does sound bad (and capitalistic) to charge for verification, but if you look into it, it makes sense (in my opinion). And let me explain why.
But before I get into new Twitter rules, let me quickly add a little history of the blue check mark.
Twitter before Elon
The blue check mark was introduced in 2009 to prevent impersonations and help users distinguish notable accounts, including the accounts of celebrities and organizations. Twitter would decide who gets it, creating a disparity between those who had the privilege to be famous (or notable) and the regular people. This reminds me of the following tweet and its replies:
People had to go through a process where the (Twitter) establishment would decide whether you are worthy of the blue check. Social media stars who have amassed popularity and followers through meaningless and often disgraceful videos could get it, but a regular Joe who works at a departmental store with only 24 followers would not be seen as notable enough.
The subscription service not only brings everyone on the same level but also adds a layer of security to eliminate bots and trolls.
The new subscription plan
The new subscription service would push bots and trolls to the bottom of the conversation. Bots can’t buy subscription, and trolls would not pay for the subscription. It’s not worth paying a monthly premium (even if it is just $8) to write mean comments. Maybe someone would do it for a month or maybe six months, but average trolls cannot do it every month. So the subscription will create hindrance for accounts that solely exist for trolling.
Elon compared pushing down comments associated with unpaid accounts to the bottom just like spam goes to the spam folder in Gmail; you still see it, but it won’t show up in your ‘Primary’ mail. I see that people are not happy about it. Most think this would push down authentic non-paying accounts and their content, which is a genuine concern. But if you care so much about your opinion, I think you should be able to pay $8. If you care about free speech and a troll-free platform, I think $8 is a small price.
Elon has already addressed that. Nobody can impersonate anybody, or they’ll be suspended. If you are impersonating anyone for comedy, your handle should mention “parody”. So no one will become Kamala Harris or the Centers for Disease Control on Twitter just because they paid for the blue check mark. They could try and get suspended/blocked.
According to Twitter’s Rules and Policies: “If you are engaged in impersonation or are using a misleading or deceptive fake identity, we may permanently suspend your account. If you believe your account was locked or suspended in error, submit an appeal.”
People will abuse the service for a while, and I’d like to see how Twitter will handle it.
Another important reason why I think the subscription is a good thing is…
It will open up a new revenue stream, and as Elon mentioned in his tweets, that revenue could go into rewarding content creators.
But what about the verification? Are the accounts being verified when they pay for the blue check?
According to Twitter, they are not verified independently by Twitter staff like they used to be. But there is verification involved. When you pay for your subscription, you will use a credit card that was awarded to you by a bank that did a thorough background check. All financial institutions know their customers to the best of their abilities, so you are verified (in some way). But I still think Twitter should do verification and take stringent steps to combat impersonators.
The end of “remote” work
Twitter employees would no longer be able to enjoy remote work, which was introduced during the pandemic. Elon wants each employee to spend 40 hours per week in the office, which could be counterproductive since Twitter isn’t working on engines but rather on algorithms and content moderation that can be handled remotely. Working from home can be more productive for employees who live far away or cannot manage to travel to work every day. But Elon is used to having employees in the building. He needs to understand that Twitter is not SpaceX or Tesla, so the same rules may not apply.
There’s nothing wrong with trying new things. Twitter will make some mistakes, just like SpaceX blew multiple rockets, but eventually, it will (hopefully) become a source of credible news and a platform for free speech. I think some people are being critical because they hate to pay for something or perhaps don’t like him (Elon) for his conservative views. I don’t side with (extreme) conservative views, and I have recently talked about Kanye, and why I am not on board with him, so I am not taking sides. For me, the new Twitter rules make sense. I could be entirely wrong. But can we wait and see? Elon himself said that Twitter will do a lot of “dumb things”. Let’s see what works.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Am I wrong in considering a Twitter subscription a good thing? Do tell me.