Those on Twitter (or those who have been reading the news) will know that Elon Musk is charging $8 per month to receive the verified blue check.
Forget that, I say! Get your special blue check from my friend Seren instead.
I’ll try not to rant too much but thought I’d share a bit of my history and why anything to do with this blue check gets my attention.
A few years ago I was the editor/publisher of an online news site. It featured fact-based articles, and I did my best to make it impartial and politically unbiased. I set up social media accounts to promote this site, and Twitter was one of them.
In the span of just a few months, my news site gained thousands of followers, so I thought I should get blue check verified so people would know that my Twitter page represented the real site, and to protect it in case an impersonator came along. So, I applied for this blue check since I met all of their stated criteria, and I provided Twitter with everything they asked for. Things were looking up!
Or so I thought.
Did I not receive my blue check? In a word, no. And, not only that, but Twitter decided to stick it to me with a shadowban on top of it so my followers could not even see my tweets unless they went directly to my Twitter page. Nothing I posted appeared in their feeds.
To be clear, I broke no rules, and my news site was not politically biased. I did, however, have some followers who were politically active, and it appears Twitter’s algorithm lumped me in with their adversaries and decided to censor me too.
You probably won’t see it in the news much, but Twitter openly admitted to having algorithms that hid accounts and tweets based on who followed or interacted with them.
Twitter claims they never shadowbanned anyone. “You are always able to see the tweets from accounts you follow,” Twitter assured us, and yet in the same breath added, “although you may have to do more work to find them, like go directly to their profile.”
Anyone familiar with how social media works will know that if a tweet or post does not appear in the feed of a follower it is unlikely to be seen. Unless you’re already super famous, people will rarely take the time to go to your page directly (and often won’t even if you are). They just expect tweets from accounts they follow to come up in their feed, but Twitter wasn’t showing those tweets, just tweets from people who usually had the coveted blue check and almost always shared the same political views as the employees of Twitter.
So, how did Twitter decide who to censor? Surely I’m giving you fake news when I say they hid tweets because an account interacted with other accounts they disliked? I promise I’m not making it up. This is straight from the mouth of Twitter on the criteria they used to determine what they call “bad-faith actors” to censor.
“This last bullet is the basis of our work around serving healthy public conversation,” Twitter said. “Here are some of the signals we use to determine bad-faith actors:
- Specific account properties that indicate authenticity (e.g. whether you have a confirmed email address, how recently your account was created, whether you uploaded a profile image, etc)
- What actions you take on Twitter (e.g. who you follow, who you retweet, etc)
- How other accounts interact with you (e.g. who mutes you, who follows you, who retweets you, who blocks you, etc)”
They admit it in plain sight. You are ranked based on who you follow, who follows and retweets you, and who mutes, blocks, or retweets you.
Elon Musk has been getting bad press, but when he said he supported free speech on Twitter and described the blue check as a “Lords and peasants” situation some of us knew exactly what he was talking about. The censorship on Twitter has been off-the-scale.
For what it’s worth I think Elon handled things wrong though. He got into power and the first thing he did was something stupid with the blue check, a thing that should be used to verify identity, period. The old Lords of Twitter refused to give it to people unfairly, but now, Elon says anyone can buy it for $8. Why I wonder, can’t anyone at the helm of Twitter get this right?
Also, it also turns out that Elon is not the free-speech savior many hoped he would be.
“New Twitter policy is freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach. Negative/hate tweets will be max deboosted & demonetized, so no ads or other revenue to Twitter, ” Elon said. “You won’t find the tweet unless you specifically seek it out, which is no different from rest of Internet.”
So, in the words of The Who: “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”
Banning “hate speech” might sound good to some people, but who determines what hate speech is? For the employees of Twitter, it seemed to be any viewpoint they didn’t agree with.
Elon can keep his $8 blue check. I’ll get mine for 8L from Haven Heavy Industries.