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Elon Musk says Twitter will re-launch its verification program next week

Elon Musk says the company is ready to re-launch a verification program designed to ease the app's financial reliance on advertisers, but has yet to provide details.
Justin Sullivan
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Elon Musk says the company is ready to re-launch a verification program designed to ease the app's financial reliance on advertisers, but has yet to provide details.

Elon Musk says he has a tentative timeframe to once again roll out his new paid verification system for Twitter.

"Sorry for the delay, we're tentatively launching Verified on Friday next week," the embattled new CEO wrote in a tweet early Friday.

This will be his second attempt at launching a paid verification system. His first attempt earlier this month failed after users successfully impersonated companies and celebrities, including Lebron James, Former President George W. Bush and Musk himself.

One account impersonating the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Co. tweeted that insulin was free, causing the company's stock to take a nose dive.

This time, Musk says, all accounts will be manually verified and color coded for different entities.

"Gold check for companies, grey check for government, blue for individuals (celebrity or not) and all verified accounts will be manually authenticated before check activates," he explained in a Twitter thread.

But he has yet to explain how the manual verification will work, or whether it might delay the verification process, especially given that more than half of Twitter's 7,500 employees have either resigned or were fired since Musk purchased the company about a month ago.

Verification practices for social media platforms require a "robust, nimble and large team to work well at scale," says Rachel Tobac, the CEO of the Cyber Security firm SocialProof Security.

"With a reduced workforce, it remains to be seen if it will be possible to prevent fraud, impersonation and scams with their new identity verification methodology," she wrote in an email to NPR. "Scammers will quickly determine how they can overwhelm or manipulate the identity verification system to get 'authenticated' as an entity that they are not."

Twitter did not respond to an interview request by the time this story was published.

"Deliberate impersonation/deception will result in account suspension," Musk tweeted Friday about the new plan. "We shall see how it goes."

He also wrote that "individuals can have [a] secondary tiny logo showing they belong to an org if verified as such by that org," promising more details next week.

Asking users to pay for verification is a cornerstone of Musk's new plan to make Twitter profitable and less financially dependent on advertising revenue. Already, half of Twitter's top 100 advertisers are no longer advertising on the website, according to a new report from the left-leaning think tank Media Matters for America.

Those 50 advertisers spent almost $2 billion on Twitter ads since 2020 and more than $750 million just in 2022.

Musk's latest Twitter thread didn't mention whether his new plan would deviate from initial plans to charge $7.99 per month for verification.

But his announcement came in response to a Tweet from former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who criticized Musk for failing to understand that "a corporations' value lies in their workers — their knowledge, skills and ideas."

"Interesting," Musk responded. "Now pay $8."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Emily Olson
Emily Olson is on a three-month assignment as a news writer and live blog editor, helping shape NPR's digital breaking news strategy.