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Twitter said to postpone changes to blue checks until after midterms

Nov. 6, 2022 Updated Sun., Nov. 6, 2022 at 9:03 p.m.

The Twitter building in San Francisco catches the morning light, Friday, Nov. 4, 2022, as thousands of employees await word of layoffs.  (TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE)
The Twitter building in San Francisco catches the morning light, Friday, Nov. 4, 2022, as thousands of employees await word of layoffs. (TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE)
By Ryan Mac, Kate Conger and Mike Isaac New York Times

Twitter is delaying the rollout of verification check marks to subscribers of its new $7.99 a month subscription service until after Tuesday’s midterm elections, according to an internal post viewed by the New York Times and two people with knowledge of the decision.

The company made the call a day after announcing it was rolling out the program for people to receive a verification check mark on their profile for the monthly fee. On Saturday, the company said in notes accompanying a new update to the Twitter app that the paid verification system was now a feature of the website’s subscription service, Twitter Blue.

“Power to the people,” the announcement said. “Your account will get a blue check mark, just like the celebrities, companies, and politicians you already follow.”

But many Twitter users and employees raised concerns that the new pay-for-play badges could cause confusion before Tuesday’s elections because users could easily create verified accounts – say, posing as President Joe Biden or as lawmakers or news outlets and publishing false information about voting results – which could sow discord.

In an internal Slack channel on Saturday, one Twitter employee asked why the social network was “making such a risky change before elections, which has the potential of causing election interference.”

A manager working on the verification badge project responded on Sunday that “we’ve made the decision to move the launch of this release to Nov. 9, after the election.”

Twitter, whose communications team has been almost entirely laid off, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Nov. 9 is the day immediately following Tuesday’s election, and many races may still be undecided as votes are tallied.

Charging for the verification check mark program had been one of the changes made by Elon Musk, who took over Twitter late last month in a $44 billion buyout. The billionaire is under financial pressure from the deal, which he partly financed with $13 billion in debt. Twitter has long been unprofitable and, like other social media companies, it faces a weakening in digital advertising spending as the global economy tips toward a recession.

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