02 November 2022
Since taking ownership of Twitter, American billionaire Elon Musk has already proposed major changes for the social media service.
He has removed top leaders at the company. He said he plans to create a new "content moderation council" to decide what kinds of material or individuals should be banned from Twitter.
And Musk has proposed charging Twitter users who want verified accounts. The verification system has long existed on Twitter. It was set up as a process the company could use to verify whether a user's account and details were real. This was meant to help users avoid false Twitter accounts set up in someone else's name.
The system is often used by well-known individuals, such as world and business leaders, reporters and news organizations and people from the entertainment industry. Twitter currently puts a blue check mark next to the account names of verified users. Until now, the verification process has been free to users.
Musk recently sent out a tweet suggesting such a service might cost $8 a month. His tweet came as an answer to one sent by writer Stephen King, who expressed opposition to speculation that Twitter's new verification process might cost $20 a month.
King's tweet said, "If that gets instituted, I'm gone like Enron." Musk answered by tweeting, "We need to pay the bills somehow! Twitter cannot rely entirely on advertisers. How about $8?"
Musk also suggested he plans to change the existing process for issuing verified accounts. He tweeted that he opposes Twitter's "current lords & peasants system" for deciding who gets verified. So far, Musk has not provided additional details about what the new verification process might look like.
The new Twitter chief also proposed giving verified account holders who pay the $8 additional service offerings. These could include the ability to post longer videos and being shown fewer advertisements.
An advisor to Musk, businessman Jason Calacanis, asked Twitter users on the service whether they would be willing to pay for being verified. More than 80 percent of users who took part said they would not agree to pay for verification. About 10 percent said they would be willing to pay $5 a month.
Calacanis said Twitter's current team already has a detailed plan in place "to reduce the number of bots," scammers and "bad actors" on the service, The Associated Press reported.
Musk has promised to reduce some of Twitter's content restrictions to support free speech. But he said last week that no major decisions on content or banned accounts will be made until the "content moderation council" is in place.
However, he did tweet that "anyone suspended for minor & dubious reasons will be freed from Twitter jail." Some experts see that statement, as well as his other recent tweets on the subject, as suggesting that he might make content decisions and unblock the accounts of some banned members.
Musk has already signaled support for some politicians on the political right who have called for fewer restrictions on Twitter users. One example is a Republican candidate for Arizona's secretary of state, Mark Finchem. The candidate credited Musk with helping him to begin tweeting again after his account was briefly suspended on Monday, the AP reported.
When asked by the AP why his account was suspended, Finchem said, "Perhaps you should reach out to Elon Musk. We were banned for an unknown reason, we reached out to him and 45 minutes later we were reinstated."
The timing of Musk's takeover has led to concern by some political experts that any changes he makes might influence the outcome of U.S. midterm elections, set for November 8.
Last week, a conservative podcaster shared examples of what he said showed how Twitter favored liberal voices and secretly sought to limit conservative opinions. Similar criticism has been common in the past, with Twitter's previous leaders repeatedly denying such allegations.
Musk reacted to the podcaster's examples by tweeting, "I will be digging in more today."
But some advertisers still have worries about Musk opening up Twitter to harmful content online. General Motors has said it will suspend advertising on Twitter as it observes the service. And others are facing pressure to look at their own plans.
I'm Bryan Lynn.
Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from The Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse and Twitter.
Words in This Story
moderate – v. to make sure the rules of an internet discussion are not broken
verify – v. to prove that something is true
speculate – v. to guess about something that you have very little information about
institute – v. to start a plan, law, system, etc.
lord – n. a man of high social status
peasant – n. poor person who usually works in agriculture, often in a poor country
bot – n. a computer program designed to work automatically on the internet
dubious – adj. thought to be not completely true or unable to be trusted