Elon Musk to limit Twitter reach of users who don’t pay for Blue subscription

 (Evening Standard composite)
(Evening Standard composite)

Elon Musk has confirmed that, from mid-April, only subscribers to Twitter’s Blue paid plan will have their tweets shown on the platform’s For You tab.

This will limit posters’ tweets to their current followers and any retweets those followers make.

“Starting April 15th, only verified accounts will be eligible to be in For You recommendations,” Musk wrote on Twitter.

“The [sic] is the only realistic way to address advanced AI bot swarms taking over. It is otherwise a hopeless losing battle. Voting in polls will require verification for same reason.”

Despite suggesting this move is to counter bot content, he then followed up with a tweet saying bot-based content is welcomed as long as “they follow terms of service & don’t impersonate a human”.

What is Twitter’s For You tab?

The For You tab is a Twitter feed generated by an algorithm that weaves in content from followers and other accounts in which it thinks you might take an interest. As such, this move will demonstrably create a large disparity in the reach of those who are signed up for Twitter Blue and those who are not.

Twitter has also previously confirmed older “verified” accounts will be wound down from April 1. In the pre-Musk era, the Twitter “blue tick” was granted to people who were considered notable in some way. It was a method by which you could tell if an account claiming to be a famous person, a journalist, or public official was actually that person.

On March 18, Musk also posted about other upcoming changes to how Twitter works. “In the coming weeks” the platform will organise tweet replies by followers, verified accounts, and finally unverified accounts, he explained.

The definition of “verified” has changed since the old era of Twitter, though, now referring to the “verified phone number” of the person signing up for Twitter Blue, rather than their identity as a figure.

What is Twitter Blue?

Twitter Blue currently costs £84 a year or £8 a month.

Other features the service grants include the ability to post tweets of up to 4,000 characters, tweet editing, NFT profile pictures, SMS two-factor security, and 1080p video uploads. A 50 per cent reduction in adverts is also advertised as a key upcoming selling point.

Some accounts will bear another form of verification stamp in the future, according to the Twitter website. “In addition to blue checkmarks, Twitter may also apply visual identity signals like labels and badges on account profiles to provide more context about — and help distinguish — different types of accounts,” it reads.

These will be used for government officials, some brands, “media outlets and publishers, and some other public figures”. Such account tags are closer to the verification system Twitter used to employ, although how it will work is to be seen.

Twitter also plans to launch Verified Organizations, where employees or member Twitter accounts get yet another stamp of approval of sorts — which may be used for publishers to avoid their journalists’ accounts being spoofed by trolls or bots.