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Twitter Announces the Re-Launch of its Paid Verification Plan, with a Price Increase on iOS

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Twitter Announces the Re-Launch of its Paid Verification Plan, with a Price Increase on iOS

It’s back.

After Twitter suspended its $8 verification plan early last month, just days after its initial launch, it’s now planning to restart the program once again, though with one significant tweak.

That’s right, users that sign up on an iOS device will have to pay $11 per month – or $132 per year – to get their own blue checkmark, or alternatively, you can pay $8 per month if you sign up on the web.

Why?

Because Twitter, evidently, has worked out that Apple’s 30% in-app payment tax will cut into the potential profits from the program too much, so rather than trying to work out an alternative system, or maybe give people even more for their dollar, Twitter’s instead looking to pass on the tax directly to users.

So if you sign up on iOS, you’ll be paying a 37% mark-up, for absolutely nothing extra.

Why would anyone do that? I don’t know, why would anyone sign-up to get a blue checkmark at all? But some people will – while as Twitter notes you’ll also, maybe, get access to these add-on benefits sometime in future:

  • Tweets from verified users will be in replies mentions and search – The plan here is that in order to incentivize take-up of the option, Twitter will list tweets from paying subscribers higher, effectively limiting the exposure of tweets from those who can’t/won’t pay. Which, incidentally, is what Elon and his conservative pals are currently fuming over Twitter doing to others in the past, and as we’ve noted previously, given that the vast majority of people don’t tweet, not sure how much of a lure this is.
  • Twitter Blue subscribers will see half the ads – Maybe. Elon promised this as a feature of his new Blue plan at the beginning, but various commentators and internal advisors have since noted that this might not be workable due to the impact it would have on Twitter’s ad revenue, versus the income they might get from subscriptions. Essentially, this will only be offered if enough people sign-up for Twitter Blue. As such, I wouldn’t hold your breath.
  • Blue subscribers will be able to post longer videos – Elon has also repeatedly flagged his plans to add more YouTube-like video posting options, which would mean that people no longer have to post YouTube clips, as they could host the videos on Twitter itself. Again, this might be a take-up based element, as the added cost of hosting longer videos, if people do start doing so, will stack up pretty quick.

Other than that, you get access to Tweet editing, 1080p video uploads, reader mode, and a blue checkmark – through importantly, this will now come after your account has been reviewed.

In this revamped $8 verification process, Twitter will specifically be looking to stamp out the impersonation issues that marred the initial launch, with a new set of parameters designed to ensure that people can’t just buy a blue tick, change their name to a brand, and dupe people by masquerading as the official business account.

Under the new system:

  • Twitter will verify the phone number and profile name of each account before assigning a blue checkmark
  • If you change your Twitter handle, display name or profile photo after you’ve been given a blue checkmark, you’ll temporarily lose the blue tick until your account is reviewed by Twitter
  • Twitter is also adding gold checkmarks for official brand accounts, and gray ticks for ‘government and multilateral’ accounts, as we recently reported (which will also mean that the odd-looking ‘official’ checkmarks will be removed again next week)
  • Twitter’s also working on a system that would enable brands to assign a branded indicator to employee accounts, as another means of official verification, on top of the blue tick (though this has not been mentioned in today’s re-launch announcement)

In combination, Twitter’s hoping that these additional measures will ensure that the system isn’t abused by pranksters and activists looking to dupe people, and in theory, it should work to limit abuse. The key challenge, then, will be the labor time required for manual review, and how Twitter plans to tackle this, especially if they’re going to have to manually check every time a blue checkmark account changes its profile image.

It seems like a lot of extra work, with a lot fewer moderation staff. But this is the plan that Twitter’s going with, in the hopes that the program will lure enough people to then make it a viable pathway to both combat bot profiles in the app, and generate significant revenue, and reduce its reliance on ad spend.

But it won’t.

You can take that as a criticism of Elon Musk and his ‘free speech’ idealism if you want, but the fact is that Twitter’s going to need tens of millions of people to sign up to this scheme, paying for little more than a graphic on their Twitter account, in order for it to achieve its stated goals.

As I’ve previously noted:

  • If Twitter wants to get subscriptions to contribute 50% of its overall revenue, as Musk has stated, it’ll need more than 24.6 million users to sign on to pay $8 per month for a blue tick (even with the new iOS price point)
  • If Twitter wants to use this as a means to ‘verify all the humans’, so that only bot accounts are the ones that don’t have a blue tick, you’d think it’ll need something in the vicinity of 75% of its total user base to sign-up for it to be effective – or around 178 million users paying $8/$11 each month
  • A key problem – the majority of Twitter users are outside the US, where this monthly charge will be a lot more cost-prohibitive. This is especially true in India, where most of Twitter’s growth has come from over the past three years. India now has 18.8m users, making it Twitter’s third biggest audience market, and while Twitter has also flagged variable pricing by region, even $1 per month could be too high for developing markets

As you can see, there are some significant obstacles and benchmarks for the program. And while Elon himself seems optimistic, there’s just no way that Twitter’s going to see these levels of take-up, especially now that it’s had to increase the price on iOS, adding either more cost or more friction to the process.

For comparison, Twitter Blue peaked at 100k sign-ups, even with tweet editing as an add-on update, one of the most requested social media features of all time. That’s equivalent to 0.04% of Twitter’s userbase. Snapchat+, a comparable subscription offering, providing similar incentives, has been taken up by 0.41% of Snap users.

If Twitter gets two million users to sign-up to this updated Blue plan, that would be huge; if it gets 10 million, that would be massive. And yet, it would still be way, way short of the numbers required to reach its intended goals.

Maybe this is just the start, maybe Twitter can sweeten the deal over time, and get more people paying, and maybe, possibly, this could be a viable pathway towards Musk and Co.’s aims.

But right now, I just don’t see it.

We’ll find out, either way, over the coming months.

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Climate disinfo surges in denial, conspiracy comeback

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Climate disinfo surges in denial, conspiracy comeback

Activists of Extinction Rebellion hold a ‘die-in’ for climate action in Boston in July 2022 – Copyright AFP/File Joseph Prezioso

Roland LLOYD PARRY

False information about climate change flourished online over the past year, researchers say, with denialist social media posts and conspiracy theories surging after US environmental reforms and Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover.

“What really surprised us this year was to see a resurgence in language that is reminiscent of the 1980s: phrases like ‘climate hoax’ and ‘climate scam’ that deny the phenomenon of climate change,” said Jennie King, head of civic action at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a London-based digital research group.

Popular topics included the false claims that CO2 does not cause climate change or that global warming is not caused by human activity, said Climate Action Against Disinformation (CAAD), a coalition of campaigners, in a report.

“Let me expose what the climate scam is actually all about,” read one of the most-shared tweets, cited in another survey by US non-profit Advance Democracy, Inc (ADI).

“It is a wealth transfer from you — to the global elite.”

– Twitter disinfo surge –

An analysis of Twitter messages — carried out for AFP by two computational social scientists at City, University of London — counted 1.1 million tweets or retweets using strong climate-sceptic terms in 2022.

Watchdogs are urging social media platforms to tackle climate disinformation – Copyright AFP Robyn Beck

That was nearly twice the figure for 2021, said researchers Max Falkenberg and Andrea Baronchelli. They found climate denial posts peaked in December, the month after Tesla billionaire Musk took over the platform.

Use of the denialist hashtag #ClimateScam surged on Twitter from July, according to analyses by CAAD and the US-based campaign group Center For Countering Digital Hate (CCDH).

For weeks it was the top suggested search term on the site for users typing “climate”.

CAAD said the reason for that was “unclear”, though one major user of the term appeared to be an automated account, possibly indicating that a malignant bot was churning it out.

ADI noted that July saw US President Joe Biden secure support for a major climate spending bill — subject of numerous “climate scam” tweets — plus a heatwave in the United States and Europe.

Climate denial posts also peaked during the COP27 climate summit in November.

– Blue-tick deniers –

A quarter of all the strongly climate-sceptic tweets came from just 10 accounts, including Canadian right-wing populist party leader Maxime Bernier and Paul Joseph Watson, editor of conspiracy-theory website InfoWars, the City research showed.

CCDH pointed the finger at Musk, who reinstated numerous banned Twitter accounts and allowed users to pay for a blue tick — a mark previously reserved for accredited “verified” users in the public eye.

“Elon Musk’s decision to open up his platform for hate and disinformation has led to an explosion in climate disinformation on the platform,” said Callum Hood, CCDH’s head of research.

Musk himself tweeted in August 2022: “I do think global warming is a major risk.”

Musk has also created a $100 million dollar prize for technology innovations shown to be effective in removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

But prolific climate change contrarians -– such as blogger Tony Heller and former coal executive Steve Milloy — have hailed him in their tweets.

– Conspiracy theories –

An analysis by Advance Democracy seen by AFP found the number of Twitter posts “using climate change denialism terms” more than tripled from 2021 to 2022, reaching over 900,000.

On TikTok, views of videos using hashtags associated with climate change denialism increased by 4.9 million, it said.

On YouTube, climate change denial videos got hundreds of thousands of views, with searches for them bringing up adverts for climate-denial products.

YouTube spokesperson Elena Hernandez told AFP that in response to the claim, certain climate-denial ads had been taken down.

TikTok and Twitter did not respond to requests for comment.

On Facebook, meanwhile, ADI found the number of such posts decreased compared to 2021, in line with overall climate change claims.

– Culture wars –

The CAAD report said climate content regularly features alongside other misleading claims on “electoral fraud, vaccinations, the COVID-19 pandemic, migration, and child trafficking rings run by so-called ‘elites’.”

Jennie King of ISD said: “We are definitely seeing a rise of out-and-out conspiracism. Climate is the latest vector in the culture wars.”

Given the reports by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change showing that human carbon emissions are heating the planet, raising the risk of floods, droughts and heatwaves, CCDH’s Hood emphasised the urgency of restricting the reach of misinformation.

“We would encourage platforms to think about the real harm that is caused by climate change,” Hood said, “so people who repeatedly spread demonstrably false information about climate are not granted the sort of reach that we see them getting.”

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Snap making changes to direct response advertising business

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Snap making changes to direct response advertising business

The company posted a net loss of $288.5 million, or 18 cents a share, including $34 million in charges from its workforce restructuring. That compared to a profit of $23 million, or one cent, a year earlier.

Snap ended the fourth quarter with 375 million daily users, a 17% increase. In the first three months of the year, the company estimates 382 million to 384 million people will use its platform daily.

Snap has become a bellwether for other digital advertising companies. Last year, it was the first to raise concerns about the slowdown in marketer spending online and to fire a significant number of employees—20% of its workforce—to cut costs in the face of falling revenue.

The company has spent the last two quarters refocusing the organization, cutting projects that don’t contribute to user and revenue growth.

In the first quarter, Snap expects the environment to “remain challenging as we expect the headwinds we have faced over the past year to persist.”

Investors will get additional information about the state of the digital ad market when Meta and Alphabet report earnings later this week.

—Bloomberg News

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Twitter Outlines New Platform Rules Which Emphasize Reduced Reach, as Opposed to Suspensions

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Twitter Outlines New Platform Rules Which Emphasize Reduced Reach, as Opposed to Suspensions

After reinstating thousands of previously suspended accounts, as part of new chief Elon Musk’s ‘amnesty’ initiative, Twitter has now outlined how it will be enforcing its rules from now on, which includes less restrictive measures for some violations.

As explained by Twitter:

“We have been proactively reinstating previously suspended accounts […] We did not reinstate accounts that engaged in illegal activity, threats of harm or violence, large-scale spam and platform manipulation, or when there was no recent appeal to have the account reinstated. Going forward, we will take less severe actions, such as limiting the reach of policy-violating Tweets or asking you to remove Tweets before you can continue using your account.”

This is in line with Musk’s previously stated ‘freedom of speech, not freedom of reach’ approach, which will see Twitter leaning more towards leaving content active in the app, but reducing its impact algorithmically, if it breaks any rules.

Which means a lot of tweets that would have previously been deemed violative will now remain in the app, and while Musk notes that no ads will be displayed against such content, that could be difficult to enforce, given the way the tweet timeline functions.

But it does align with Musk’s free speech approach, and reduces the onus on Twitter, to some degree, in moderating speech. It will still need to assess each instance, case-by-case, but users themselves will be less aware of penalties – though Musk has also flagged adding more notifications and explainers to outline any reach penalties as well.

“Account suspension will be reserved for severe or ongoing, repeat violations of our policies. Severe violations include but are not limited to: engaging in illegal content or activity, inciting or threatening violence or harm, privacy violations, platform manipulation or spam, and engaging in targeted harassment of our users.

Which still means that a lot of content that these users had been suspended for previously would still result in suspension now, and it leaves a lot up to Twitter management in allocating severity of impact in certain actions.

How do you definitively measure threats of violence or harm, for example? Former President Donald Trump was sanctioned under this policy, but many, including Musk, were critical of Twitter’s decision to do so, given that Trump is an elected representative.

In other nations, too, Twitter has been pressured to remove tweets under these policies, and it’ll be interesting to see how Twitter 2.0 handles such, given its stated more lax approach to moderation, despite its rules remaining largely the same.

Already, questions have been raised on this front – Twitter recently removed links to a BBC documentary that’s critical of the Indian Government, at the request of India’s PM. Twitter hasn’t offered any official explanation for the action, but with Musk also working with the Indian Government to secure partnerships for his other business, Tesla, questions have been raised as to how he will manage both impacts concurrently.

In essence, Twitter’s approach has changed when it chooses to do so, but the rules, as such, will effectively be governed by Musk himself. And as we’ve already seen, he will make drastic rules changes based on personal agendas and experience.

Twitter says that, starting February 1st, any previously suspended users will be able to appeal their suspension, and be evaluated under its new criteria for reinstatement.

It’s also targeting February for a launch of its new account penalties notifications.



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