In this photo illustration, Elon Musk’s image is displayed on a computer screen and the Twitter logo on a mobile phone in Ankara, Turkey on October 6, 2022.
Muhammed Selim Korkutatta | Anatolian Agency | Getty Images
Twitter appears to have paused its $7.99/month Blue subscription service, which allowed people to pay for a verification checkmark, after users abused it to impersonate brands and famous people.
Twitter launched the service earlier this week in its iPhone app, which allows users to purchase a check mark that was previously used to indicate that an account is verified or official. As of Friday, the iPhone app no longer shows an option to sign up for Twitter Blue.
The quick suspension of the service suggests that, at least for now, CEO Elon Musk’s grand plan to generate new revenue from users isn’t working as expected.
The paid subscription service has led to multiple pranksters creating fraudulent Twitter accounts. This left the platform even more ripe for misinformation, and many cheaply acquired hashtags were used to represent brands, politicians and celebrities with unflattering messages.
A current Twitter sales employee said the company decided to withdraw Twitter Blue verification in response to the wave of copycats.
The official, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak on behalf of Twitter, said an account impersonating pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly caused a major problem when he tweeted“We are excited to announce that insulin is now free.”
The tweet remained on the social media platform for hours before it was taken down. The real Eli Lilly account later tweeted: “We apologize to those who received a misleading message from a fake Lilly account.”
Eli Lilly’s stock price dropped sharply after the fake message was published, as well as other pharmaceutical companies, including AbbVie, which was also featured on Twitter. At the time, the major stock indexes were positive amid a market rally.
An impersonator was also nailed Tesla, Elon Musk’s electric car maker, using the blue tick for a paid subscriber. An account with a name that appeared as “@TeslaReal” wrote a flurry of disparaging tweets, one of which said, “frankly, the 53% drop in stock price doesn’t change[sic] us. if anyone knows about Crashing, it’s us.”
The effect of so many changes on the Twitter platform is a big problem for advertisers, some of whom have already stopped spending there.
In addition, some users who have already paid for the service said their newly acquired blue ticks disappeared from their accounts.
A Twitter spokesperson was not immediately available for comment. Musk could not be reached for comment.
The cancellation of Twitter Blue verified comes as Musk and Alex Spiro, who currently serves as Twitter’s general counsel, work to assure employees, advertisers and regulators that they will comply with all laws and terms of a previous FTC consent decree .
Elon Musk wrote in a company-wide email obtained by CNBC on Thursday evening, “I cannot stress enough that Twitter will do everything necessary to adhere to both the letter and the spirit of the FTC’s consent decree . Everything you read to the contrary is absolutely false. The same applies to all other government regulatory matters in which Twitter operates.”
Spiro said in another email that followed that his team spoke with FTC regulators on Thursday and that Twitter would have its “first pending compliance review” with the agency soon. He emphasized that Twitter itself, not “individuals who work at Twitter,” would be held responsible for any violations.
As NBC News previously reported, exodus of Twitter executives since Musk took over has included the departure of the company’s head of trust and safety, Yoel Roth, and chief information security officer, Leah Kesner, among many others involved in infrastructure, trust and safety.