There was a lot going on at Twitter this week, with a tumultuous launch of the new Twitter Blue subscription and its blue checkmark. There were funny and worrisome impersonations, resignations of senior staff, including the heads of security and privacy, and lots of ideas for what kinds of features may be coming to Twitter.
If you’re not interested in Twitter, just scroll down for the new features for YouTube Live and Shorts, Instagram, Facebook and more.
Back to back tweets. https://t.co/TpnMrmGJr5
— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__)
Nov 11, 2022
Last week I wrote about the turmoil at Twitter, after new owner Elon Musk took over and laid off half the employees.
Did things calm down this week? Not at all.
Blue Checks For All?
After waiting to launch the all new blue-check-for-everyone Twitter Blue until after the US midterm elections on Tuesday, it quickly became clear that impersonation was going to be a problem.
A Twitter Blue subscription includes several benefits, including Tweet editing (which isn’t controversial), the “verified” check mark, and appearance on the new “Verified” notification tab when replying or otherwise engaging with someone on the platform.
I put “verified” in quotes, because it did not include any identity verification. All you needed was a credit card and iOS device to sign up. Credit card validation was supposed to make sure that the account represented a real person.
Even before Twitter Blue launched, verified users changed their account names and handles to mock Musk. The result was a change in Twitter policy to require a clear “parody” label on parody accounts, or risk permanent suspension.
Immediately it became clear that charging a subscription fee was not sufficient to prevent scammers and trolls from signing up. Having the new “I have a credit card” badge be identical to the “identity verified” badge added to the confusion. And there were plenty of people who were willing to spend $7.99 for a joke.
It also highlighted the lack of planning. There was an announcement that there would be an additional “Official” badge on some identity-verified profiles, and then there was an announcement there wouldn’t be one, and then it was back on. Badges appeared and disappeared. A profile popup was implemented to indicate if the check mark was purchased or awarded. And Musk says he wants to eventually get rid of “legacy” checkmarks.
Now purchase of Twitter Blue subscriptions has apparently been suspended while they (hopefully) sort out the whole impersonation problem.
Adding to the confusion was the lack of communication from Twitter to users. Apparently most of the communication team was laid off. The Twitter Blog hasn’t been updated since before the ownership change, and apparently no one at Twitter had control of the official @Twitter account until yesterday. Some official communications were posted with the @TwitterSupport handle, but it didn’t try to keep up with changes happening multiple times a day.
And none of this is likely to convince brands to spend their advertising budget at Twitter, particularly given the CEO’s behavior.
Over the past few days:
New "verified" profiles for brands sprang up, often commenting on the brand’s sordid past (the two fake Chiquita accounts discussing overthrowing South American governments are darkly funny (and true)), or impersonating politicians and celebrities.
While many of the protest Tweets are clearly parody, there are spammers and scammers doing a good impersonation of brands. Many businesses use Twitter as a support channel, which now puts users at risk of sharing personal details with a fake account.
A fake verified Eli Lilly account tweeted that insulin is free, and as it gained thousands of likes, Eli Lilly’s stock price dropped almost 5%. It may have been a coincidence, but a reassuring tweet (insulin totally isn’t free! To paraphrase) from the real Eli Lilly account correlated with the stock rebounding a bit. And in any case company executives are apparently angry about the stunt.
Also of concern, a Washington Post reporter easily created a verified account impersonating Senator Ed Markey (with his permissions). The fake profile has the “check mark for being notable” label, making it difficult to distinguish from the real thing.
Even with new safeguards against impersonation, it isn’t clear who subscriptions will appeal to beyond the Musk fans who think the blue check is a marker of “elite” status; marketers, promoters and gadflies who want to make their replies more visible, or hard core Twitterers who already are paying for the ability to edit their tweets.
At an all hands meeting, Musk tossed out ideas for Twitter’s future (it could offer banking services!). One of his ideas is to apparently offer monetization of video content uploaded to the platform.
To get this going, he suggested recruiting YouTubers and paying them slightly better than the earnings they get from YouTube.
How do we start the creator flywheel if we don’t have video ads to begin with? This is where subscriptions come in because YouTube also has subscriptions, and they don’t show ads in subscriptions. So I think this is a case where it does make sense to start spending some money and at least matching to slightly better than matching creators on YouTube and saying, for now, we’ll just pay them money that is reasonably competitive, maybe slightly better than YouTube for their content on Twitter as well.
There are also rumors there might be a revival of the Vine short video platform, which Twitter shut down in 2016.
I don’t think that’s likely for any number of reasons, not the least that Twitter doesn’t have the staff or money to develop Twitter’s video options.
And it’s hard to square with the reported suggestion that Twitter could be placed behind a paywall, which would limit video views.
As one meeting participant pointed out, only about 80 million of YouTube’s 2.6 billion users pay for a YouTube Premium subscription. That is only about 3%, and perhaps does not bode well for Twitter’s subscriptions.
I’m hoping at the least Musk watches this thoughtful video from Marques Brownlee about possible ways to attract creators who are also subscribers.
Is Twitter going to survive this?
I think there is a real possibility that Twitter may not survive this. Musk told employees that “bankruptcy is not out of the question”.
Many of its top staff have resigned this week including:
Global VP of Partners & Marketing Lara Cohen. Cohen managed the relationships with famous users.
Human Resources Head Kathleen Pacini.
Head of Trust and Safety Yoel Roth. Roth was the face of Twitter’s mitigation of the surge of hateful content after Musk took over, as well as explaining impersonation policy.
Chief Information Security Officer Lea Kissner. Their departure was shared internally by another employee who also linked to information for whistleblowers.
Chief Privacy Officer Damien Kieran
Chief Chief compliance officer Marianne Fogarty
The departure of Kissner, Kieran and Fogarty was one day before Twitter was required to file a notice with the Federal Trade Commission about how the new management and product changes affect compliance with the FTC’s consent decree.
The consent decree was imposed in 2011 over Twitter’s failure to safeguard user information. And Twitter hasn’t done a great job. They were fined $150 million just last May for additional violations.
Notably FTC violations can result in federal criminal charges. It’s not a good sign when the people responsible for certifying compliance quit. And yes, the FTC is paying attention to recent developments.
While Twitter may survive the turmoil, lack of experienced engineers, and debt, it’s hard to imagine it coming out the other side unchanged.
Many people are moving to (or at least trying out) the free open-source Mastodon social platform.
I’ve created a profile at mas.to/@peggyktc to see what it’s all about while I continue to use Twitter. So far it seems both friendly and low key, and I’m mostly lurking to see how it works. I’m keeping in mind that the current influx of Twitter users is apparently a bit of an Eternal September moment for long-time Mastodon users.
Getting some buzz is Project Mushroom, a Mastodon project focused on climate justice. It’s being run by Currently, a collaborative project of journalists and scientists sharing weather and climate information.
Other platforms have also made note of people looking for a new home.
Tumblr has a list of reasons to join and is offering not one, but two “Blue Internet Checkmarks” for your blog for the low price of $7.99 (LOL). It looks like a weird and friendly place.
And Gabor Cselle, formerly the head of Google’s Area 120, is designing a new social platform from scratch. That should be interesting.
YouTube is launching Live Q&A. When this is enabled in your live stream or premiere chat, viewers can submit questions, that the streamer can highlight and answer. Note that this can only be controlled in Live Control Room in YouTube Studio on the web.
YouTube Shorts are now available on TVs and newer consoles. It’s currently a simple design, but YouTube says there will be added functionality in the future.
YouTube is making it easier to engage with comments posted on your videos. You will be able to translate comments in the YouTube Studio mobile app and there are now smart replies to comments in more languages. Watch Creator Insider for details.
Should you share a link to your videos? YouTube’s Creator Liaison explains why (or why not).
Instagram CEO Adam Mossari announced the launch of what he calls “finally features”. The first is scheduled posts, which you can find in “Advanced Options” before you publish your post. The second is a redesigned website for using Instagram on the web.
Matt Navara reports that a new Facebook Groups feature is to allow anyone in the Group to make themself a manager. Sounds like chaos!
Facebook laid off 11,000 (13%) employees this week. There’s not a lot of drama, as employees are getting a nice severance package and assistance, and Mark Zuckerberg held himself accountable.
More Social Updates
Reddit is rolling out Community Muting, so you won’t see it in the Home or Popular feed.
Stories are coming to Signal. These will disappear after 24 hours.
Pinterest is boosting engagement with improved recommendations.
The new Gmail UI is becoming the standard experience. You will no longer be able to revert back to the previous version. The biggest complaint is that the additional sidebar menu that lets you switch from Gmail to Chat and Spaces takes up too much room. But I’ve been using it and I’m pretty well used to that now.
You can now assign Tasks in the Google Docs mobile app for Android and iOS.
This week was Zoomtopia, Zoom’s annual customer convention. There are a number of updates that seem to be moving towards a Zoom productivity suite, including bringing in your email and calendar; team chats outside meetings, and Zoom Spots digital co-working space. They are also bringing in the ability to record short video clips, smart meeting recordings (with chapters and summaries), and more tools for events.
Image: Twitter blue checkmark, multiplied.