Live blog: Twitter chaos – Elon Musk postpones Blue Check

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Elon Musk

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Pressing a Blue pause button

Amidst of flurry of tweets covering topics as wide-ranging as saving the world (yes, he responded (opens in new tab) to one of our tweets), hall monitors (opens in new tab) and other social platforms, fanaticism (opens in new tab), admitting he gets little sleep (opens in new tab), and whether his tweeting counts as work (opens in new tab), Twitter head Elon Musk made some news.

Musk has decided to pause his much-criticized Blue Verified system until “there is high confidence of stopping impersonation.” He’s also looking to give organizations and people different colored checks.

This is big news because Musk is finally addressing the biggest problem with the pay-for Blue Check system he introduced this month. All it asked was that you pay $8 a month for a Blue Verification check. Previously, the check was given out for free, but not before Twitter verified the identity of the person, organization, or company it was verifying.

As soon as Musk launched his own plan, Twitter was flooded with blue-checked accounts impersonating other individuals. It was a disaster.

Musk previously said he would relaunch the Blue Verified program on November 29, but that clearly wasn’t enough time to come up with a viable verification system. Plus, Twitter might be a little low on the requisite engineers after Musk laid off half the staff and then hundreds more walked out after Musk insisted on a more aggressive work culture.

Could this be the moment where Musk stops listening to his echo chamber and starts addressing some of Twitter’s structural and fundamental issues? 

We’ll see.

-Lance Ulanoff

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hispanic teen girl checking social media holding smartphone at home.

(Image credit: Shutterstock – Ground Picture)

I’ve been trying out Hive (opens in new tab) today after a bunch of friends and my wife decided to join it over the past 24 hours.

After using the app, it struck me how Mastodon needs to quickly find its footing as an alternative to Twitter, fast.

Elon Musk

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Welcome back?

Over the weekend, Twitter owner Elon Musk ran a poll (opens in new tab) of his followers asking if he should reinstate former President Donald Trump whose account was suspended following the Jan 6th riots.

A day later, Musk reinstate the account with all of its tweets intact. Thus far, Trump has said he’s not coming back. He does have his own platform, Truth Social, after all.

While Trump took a wait-and-see approach, rapper Kayne West officially rejoined the platform on Sunday. His account was suspended after anti-Semitic tweets, and reinstated shortly before Musk took over, but this was the first time he’d tweeted. Naturally, Musk welcomed him back (opens in new tab) to the platform.

At the same time that Musk was inviting back Ye and the former president (and posting memes (opens in new tab) about whether or not Trump would return), he was busy promoting The World Cup, promising better coverage (opens in new tab) of the Qatar-based, global football event than anywhere else.

From the look of things, Musk is all but living at Twitter HQ as he assesses the impact of his own changes and pulls in engineers (those that remain) for all-nighters. Musk shared images on Saturday (opens in new tab) from a late-night code review with his engineers. While we were fascinated by the whiteboard, some took note of the complete lack of female representation, at least in the photos.

Looks like we’re in for another interesting week in Twitterville.

Elon Musk

(Image credit: Getty Images / Carina Johansen)

Reversals and big decisions

Like virtually every other bit of strategy Twitter owner Elon Musk has introduced to the beleaguered social media platform, they all – even the biggest ones – play out on Twitter.

After booting comedian Kathy Griffin and other parody and humor accounts, Musk said he was reinstating (opens in new tab) Griffin, Jorden Peterson, and the satirical online newspaper, The Babylon Bee.

Musk also made it clear that he is considering bringing Former President Donald Trump back, though the “decision has not yet been made.

Perhaps the even bigger news is the unveiling of a new Twitter policy, which Musk initially teased with a tweet that said “Freedom Fridays…” (opens in new tab)

The new policy quickly followed in another tweet.

“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. You won’t find the tweet unless you specifically seek it out, which is no different from rest of Internet.”

Part of this appears to be allowing “hate” speech on the platform but hiding it. That still means people could see it (though maybe only if they conduct a Twitter or Google search). While this move will surely concern some and freak out advertisers, Musk’s plan is to not monetize any of these tweets.

A larger question remains. How will Musk and his team identify “Negative/hate tweets”? Those details weren’t included. Nor did Musk explain how and when a tweet might be so incendiary that it would be, say, too hateful and be removed from the platform, or get its author banned.

The flurry of tweets came shortly after reports that Musk had reversed his decision (opens in new tab) to lock Twitter’s doors on Friday and, apparently, ordered some people back to work.
-Lance Ulanoff

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Memes aside, however, Elon Musk isn’t as seemingly blasé about the situation in private. There are reports that Twitter has once again suspended staff’s badge access and that its offices are temporarily closed. Twitter’s staff have been told that offices will reopen on Monday, November 21, though they haven’t been told why access is currently restricted.

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The current theory is that Elon Musk and senior staff at Twitter are worried that employees who have not committed to Twitter 2.0 will sabotage the platform on their way out. On top of that, it sounds like they’re also trying to work out who is leaving (and needs their office access revoked) and who is staying. 

According to a Twitter post (opens in new tab) made at 9:42pm ET on November 17 (02:43am GMT / 12:43pm AEST on November 18) by Zoë Schiffer (opens in new tab) – the managing editor of Platformer – because only the names of people who said “Yes” to Twitter 2.0 have been collected it’s not immediately clear who has actually left.

We imagine Elon Musk and his cronies will also be trying to convince staff leaving critical teams to stay – especially the teams that would then have zero members without them. If discussions are ongoing this would likely add even more confusion to the situation as Musk wouldn’t want to revoke access for Twitter staff who end up staying with the company. 

Well, it turns out many people at Twitter weren’t enthusiastic about the prospect of working even harder than they are now on Musk’s “Twitter 2.0”. Reportedly hundreds of staff have been posting farewell messages on Twitter’s internal Slack channels after the 5pm ET deadline passed.

According to anonymous sources who spoke to The Verge (opens in new tab) this new batch of resignations means that several “critical” teams at Twitter have lost all or nearly all of their members. This apparently includes Twitter’s traffic and frontend teams that ensure engineering requests are sent to the correct backend services, as well as the entirety of Twitter’s core system libraries team – with one employee admitting about the latter that “you cannot run Twitter without [them].”

But based on his Twitter timeline, Elon Musk is apparently pretty relaxed about the whole situation. In a tweet following this new employee exodus (opens in new tab), he said that “The best people are staying, so I’m not super worried.”

He later followed up with several memes, including one showing Twitter posing in front of its own grave.

Morning folks, we’re back with the latest Twitter news, and boy have quite a few things happened.

Following the mass layoffs that occurred at Twitter two weeks ago – when Elon Musk fired an estimated half of the platform’s workforce – he issued a demand to those that remained on Wednesday (November 16): commit to the new “extremely hardcore” work culture or leave.

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Twitter staff were asked to confirm they’re committed to working longer hours and accept that “only exceptional performance will constitute a passing grade” by 5pm ET on November 17 (10pm GMT, November 17  / 8am AEST, November 18), or get three months severance and leave the company. 

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An interesting aside to Musk’s appearance at a trial earlier today, where he’s discussing (opens in new tab) a $56 billion pay package involving Tesla.

Musk has revealed that once the ‘restructuring’ is complete at Twitter, he’ll be handing it off to a new CEO.

As our Managing Editor for Entertainment, Matt Bolton quipped earlier: “He’s going to salt the earth, then ask why the next person didn’t grow anything.”

Elon Musk

(Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

Free speech = Agree with Musk speech

Elon Musk is a “champion” of free speech and often tweets about how he wants Twitter to be a virtual public square where people can openly express their views.

However, Musk has shown little patience for comedy and, it seems almost zero tolerance for Twitter employees who disagree with him on the platform and even inside Twitter, where Twitter has its own company chat board.

According to a new report in The New York Times (opens in new tab), Musk fired a Twitter developer, Eric Frohnhoefer, who disagreed with him on Twitter (opens in new tab) about Android app performance. Musk also, the report claims, asked his team to scan the team chat board for “insubordinate staff” and then fired them, some of whom were commiserating about Frohnhoefer’s firing.

Instead of denying the report, Musk sarcastically tweeted, “I would like to apologize for firing these geniuses. Their immense talent will no doubt be of great use elsewhere.”

We’re pretty sure no one would believe any of this if it weren’t all happening before our eyes and on one of the most popular social media platforms on the planet.

Lance Ulanoff

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If you missed out on Twitter Blue and its verification ‘feature’, Musk confirmed earlier that it’s coming back on Tuesday, November 29, around the time when Black Friday weekend is winding down.

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In a strange move by Musk, this was posted where two actors, previously making out that they had been fired last month, were pictured to be with them, showing that they had been ‘rehired’.

Where’s the funny here?

Elon Musk

(Image credit: Getty Images / Taylor Hill )

According to the Washington Post (opens in new tab), Musk has sent another email to all Twitter employees, asking them to commit to a ‘Twitter 2.0’ with a ‘hardcore’ work ethic.

The message also said that those who did not sign the pledge by 5PM Eastern time Thursday, or 10PM UK time, were told that they would receive three months of severance pay.

It’s yet another demand from its staff after a turbulent five weeks, and there’s still a chance that this could be reversed by the time we head into Christmas.

Elon Musk at 2022 Met Gala

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Bad news, not-necessarily bad news

It probably comes as no surprise to most of you who’ve been tracking the Elon Musk Twitter saga for some time that Musk isn’t much of a listener.

According to a new Casey Newton Platformer newsletter (opens in new tab), Musk was warned in a lengthy memo before the November 9 rollout of the paid verification plan that there would be trouble.

The document, which Platform obtained, reads more like a historical document than a “what if.” It spells out how the plan would lead to the “Impersonation of world leaders, advertisers, brand partners, election officials, and other high-profile individuals.”

That is exactly what happened before Musk hit the brakes and now appears to have no follow-up plan for Twitter Blue and paid Blue Check verifications. 

They also warned how the new plan would drive away current verified users. Some have left because they’re no longer protected from impersonation.

However, we have some good news. According to Newton, Twitter currently has no easy way of removing verified checks from those who choose not to pay. In other words, if you have a verified account right now (the one you got before the payment system was implemented), you might have it for a while longer, especially because Musk laid off many of the people who might help program such a change.

Included among the Twitter departed is Sachee MacCaw, a Twitter Software engineer who ruthlessly trolled Musk on Twitter, especially after he criticized how the system works on Android until he fired her (opens in new tab). —Lance Ulanoff

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Thanks to Twitter user @Christapeterso (opens in new tab), a timeline of Elon Musk owning Twitter up until the present day is here for all to see, and it’s only when you read through this thread, that you realize so much has happened in such a short space of time.

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We’ve started to spot some tweets of two-factor authentication not working. If you’ve put an email or a mobile number in to help verify your account when you sign in, it looks like it’s not working correctly.

The code needed to help you sign in isn’t being sent, but it looks as though it works for email for some, and not a phone number.

In any case, it’s concerning that a feature to help secure your account is starting to show bugs and refuse to work for some users.

If you’re worried, it may be best to check that email verification is switched on for your account as soon as you can.

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After a mildly-quiet Friday, Musk has been replying to a bunch of users today, with confirmation that the ‘Sent from iPhone’ message is going away.

If you’re unaware, as you’d send a tweet from an iPhone or an Android device, the tweet would state this. It’s resulted in some embarrassing moments for brands, where it would send a tweet advertising an Android device, but it would be sent from an iPhone.

So this removal could be to do with advertisements yet again, not just because Musk and his team isn’t sure why that feature has been around for years.

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Ex-Twitter employees are subtweeting Musk with corrections to his tweets, but this time, Musk replied to Tracy Hawkins here, arguing that this tweet is allegedly false.

Expect to see more of these tweets in the near future – we’re in a period where employees are feeling unsure about the company’s roadmap, and their own future at Twitter.

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If you’ve been experiencing some issues when using Twitter as some on the TechRadar team have, you’re not alone.

It also looks as though you’ll be suffering with these issues for a bit longer, as a ‘change freeze’ has been put into effect. This essentially means that any changes to the code of Twitter, from how it works to any features in development, have been paused.

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As every day passes there seems to be something that causes an eyebrow to be raised. Elon Musk’s other company, SpaceX, has seemingly bought an ad campaign to run on Twitter for the foreseeable.

As Lora Kolodny tweets above, these usually cost in the region of $250,000 a day, but it wouldn’t be a far cry to suspect that SpaceX has received a bit of a discount compared to other companies’ ad takeovers in the past.

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Elon Musk tweeted his thoughts about Twitter engagement late last night, and it’s been a debatable post to say the least.

A subtweet from Raheel Khursheed caught our eye, as he explains how the social platform barely made a footprint when it came to linking to other sites.

Elon Musk and Twitter

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Twitter Blues

While Twitter Blue signups are currently on pause, we might finally have some insight into how well (or not) the new program is proceeding.

According to a report in Mashable (opens in new tab), which got some Twitter Blue signup numbers from app-tracking firm Sensor Tower (opens in new tab), Twitter Blue signups generated $488,000, which is, at $8 a pop, 61,000 subscribers. 

Let’s just say that’s not quite a blue wave. It’s not terrible, but Twitter has hundreds of millions of daily active users and only a fraction of them are legacy verified. We should have seen millions of people signing up for Twitter Blue, right?

If 91% of Twitter’s revenue is generated from ads (roughly $5 billion in 2021), Twitter Blue has an incredibly long way to go before it can support 50% of Twitter’s overall revenue.

As of this moment, though, there is no Twitter Blue signup, and there probably won’t be until Musk and Twitter can figure out how to get people to sign up without causing significant verification and identity issues.

This system is a joke

Over at The Washington Post, tech journalist Geoffrey Fowler (opens in new tab), with the permission of a sitting Senator and a comedian, created two fake “verified” Blue Check Twitter accounts in minutes.

Massachusetts Senator Edward J. Markey and comedian Blaire Erskine both agree to let Fowler create the fake accounts in their names.

As Fowler writes:

“Twitter has said accounts that impersonate people are not allowed and face suspension when they’re discovered. It booted comedian Kathy Griffin after she changed her Twitter screen name to Elon Musk. But there’s very little about Twitter’s new paid service that stops you from verifying a fake account. As of the time I published this column, its systems hadn’t detected these were not authentic accounts and they remained online.”

What does this prove? That there is no verification in this “verification.” Elon Musk has created a broken system (one since hidden) and that has already been gamed by others to more devastating effect. 

Someone created a fake Ely Lilly And Co “verified” Twitter account and then tweeted that insulin was now free (opens in new tab). While it may have been coincidental. the real drug company’s stock did take a dive.

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Unchecking

Despite the controversy surrounding the new Blue Check process and the ability to become a Twitter Blue member suddenly disappearing from the platform, many people have already opted to pay $8 for their own Blue Check.

If, however, you’re not satisfied, you can, according to Twitter user @Dash, get a quick refund on your $8 subscription charge through Apple.

This isn’t surprising since it’s easy to unsubscribe to almost any service you’ve paid for through Apple’s App Store.

What @Dash claims, though, is that after your refund, you still get to keep the “tick” (Blue Check) for 30 days. That may or may not be so, though. While it might take some time for Apple to process the cancellation and hand it off to Twitter, it seems unlikely that the Blue Check would hang around for long.

If there’s anyone out there who did have Blue Check buyer’s remorse, canceled, and still has the tick, let us know.

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What’s a journalist?

Lance Ulanoff hopping in here:

For Chief Twit Elon Musk, so much of the Blue Check verification mess boils down to Citizen Journalism. 

Musk wants everyone on Twitter to deliver the news (nothing has stopped them up to now). However, the unlevel playing field of Blue Check haves and have-nots has created, as Musk sees it, an imbalance. With the meaning and value of Blue checks reduced to the price of an expensive cup of coffee (one per month), it means anyone can be verified and, if they report news on Twitter, have the same visibility.

Musk Tweeted Friday afternoon, “As Twitter pursues the goal of elevating citizen journalism, media elite will try everything to stop that from happening.”

In Musk’s eyes, professional journalists are the “media elite” and we’re blocking his everyone is a journalist dream.

As this tech reporter told Musk on Twitter, though, the issue is not citizen journalists, it’s that the entire Blue Check system is no longer tied to identity, quality, or any semblance of truth. Without that, no one, including his citizen journalists, can be trusted.

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Here’s a reply from Musk an hour ago, where he’s enthusiastic of how Twitter Blue is going so far.

Which makes us wonder – has he gotten the memo?

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I was thinking back to when I first used Twitter on my iPhone, and it was indeed Tweetie, which was bought by the company, and then turned into the app you use today.

The pull-to-refresh gesture is now a standard on many apps, such as Apple’s Safari and Mail apps.

Just to add to the chaos, Musk has now tweeted this from the Twitter HQ. While we don’t ever suggest reading too much into tweets, especially from someone as mercurial as Musk, it does perhaps give us a glimpse into the current mindset of the remaining Twitter employees…

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By tweeting and highlighting this, it seems that Musk is aware, though what he thinks of it is a mystery, as always.

Mastodon apps on iOS and Android

(Image credit: TechRadar)

If you’ve heard of Mastodon this week, you’re not alone. Luckily, I’ve been trying it out lately and it’s a great alternative. There are a couple of apps you can use right now on iOS and Android if you’ve already signed up to Mastodon as well.

Lance Ulanoff materializes

(Image credit: Future)

Our US Editor-In-Chief Lance Ulanoff sent us this which reads as though he’s saying farewell to Twitter:

“I’ve met some of the coolest people on Twitter. I’ve interacted with my idols and icons and made true friends. Twitter has always worked the way my brain works – in bite-sized pieces. Honestly not sure how I’ll maintain certain friendships and connections or where I’ll post random thoughts that make me happy without it. Please, Microsoft, buy Twitter.”

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Zoë Schiffer (opens in new tab), writer at Platformer, tweeted the above that a message was posted in the Twitter Slack, that confirmed the end of Twitter Blue and paid blue ticks in order to stop the impersonations, but any existing subscriptions to the service will carry on as usual.

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Another one that was sent to me from Muskaan, this tweet shows how broken the verification system under Twitter Blue was. One is the genuine Apple TV Plus account, another is a fake one.

Hopefully we’ll see a reversal of this, as it’s already confusing to tell which one is real or fake for many users.

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Our (fantastic) Computing writer Muskaan Saxena sent me this tweet, and it’s a great analogy for how users are feeling on Twitter.

A mad iceberg in the shape of the Twitter bird is quite the image.

So where do we stand so far?

Musk has yet to react to any development to Twitter today, which is surprising. The above is, at the time of posting this, his latest tweet.

However, we’ve noticed a small change with the ticks, where it’s also blue when you’re in dark mode on the site.

The top image shows what an Actually Verified account looks like, while the bottom shows you what a Paid for Verification account looks like

(Image credit: Wseagar / Eight-Dollars)

An interesting read by Hamish Hector here – there’s a Chrome extension where it will tell you if a user has been verified with a blue tick, or if they’ve gained one by signing up to Twitter Blue when it was live.

Worrying about Twitter

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Let’s be clear – there’s not going to be a replacement for Twitter. Nothing really can be, but there are potential alternatives.

With this in mind, we’ve got three for you to consider.

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Here’s our US Editor-in-Chief Lance Ulanoff showing his very first tweet back in 2007.

As it includes a bagel, it’s already a great tweet in my book. The next question for me is, could his final tweet include a bagel to round it off?

Elon Musk at 2022 Met Gala

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Let’s recap:

On October 30, Elon Musk, CEO and Founder of Space X, CEO of Tesla, finally took charge of Twitter after a long-winded buyout of the platform.

In under a month, we’ve seen the verification process become irrelevant and confusing due to the subscription service, Twitter Blue being able to grant any user a blue tick, and there’s also been a huge firing of staff.

On November 11, Twitter Blue was removed entirely, and there’s been silence from Musk since.

So, almost inevitably, it seems the Blue Tick verification process has been canned.

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As the tweet above states, the chaos continues – hence why we’ve started this live blog. What is going on?

Here’s an example of how hard some of these fake accounts are to spot:

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Musk himself fell victim to this, with countless fake accounts popping up claiming to be him – and with a Blue Tick to prove it. This seemed to be the final straw, as Musk then backtracked on some of the more lax elements of the new verification process.

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However, as people predicted, verified accounts started popping up on Twitter, and while many of them were obviously parodies, because they had the ‘Blue Tick’, it became difficult to tell, especially with the more subtle accounts.

Unsurprisingly, the individuals and companies that were being parodied weren’t too happy about this. 

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Worryingly for Twitter, many brands started to announce that they would no longer advertise on the platform.

Despite the concerns and complaints, Musk was initially dismissive.

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By posting memes about people’s complaints, it left many people feeling that he wasn’t exactly taking the issue seriously.

Perhaps the most controversial thing to come from Musk’s Twitter takeover has been the changes to how accounts are verified. 

Previously, if the verified account of a media outlet (such as TechRadar (opens in new tab)) or other organization published something, you would at least know that it came from an official source. The Blue Check also enabled Twitter users to tell the difference between the many celebrities on Twitter and users who were imitating them.

However, Musk implemented a change that would allow anyone to get verified for $8 a month.

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This led to some people worrying that users could pretend to be official accounts and get easily verified, making it hard for people to tell which accounts were real – and which weren’t. And that’s exactly what happened.

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