Musk should get real on Twitter’s feudal effects3 min read 07 Nov 2022, 10:26 PM IST
The platform’s new owner called for a levelling of ‘lords and peasants’, but don’t bet on an egalitarian emphasis. Its prospects of profitability and social responsibility both look dim
It is a testament to Twitter’s role in public discourse that its $44 billion takeover by Elon Musk has caused such a flutter, not just on this online platform for snippety messages, but far beyond. In a display of what earned him his spurs as a Twitter warrior—or its ‘Chief Twit’ as Musk called himself—he made a snappy case last week for asking users to start paying a monthly fee for identity verification. While his firing of the acquired company’s top management and ungainly reduction of staff overnight were widely anticipated, the argument he advanced for this pay model stood out as a surprise for its egalitarian-sounding aim. The company had split users into “lords and peasants", he said, referring to its old policy of deciding who was either famous or important enough to merit an ID check so that a ‘blue tick’ elite could be trusted by followers for not being fake. By offering to verify anyone’s ID for a service fee of $8 per month in the US and its equivalent by purchasing-power parity elsewhere (i.e. about ₹190 in India), Musk cleverly pitched a levelled platform. Yet, it would be foolhardy to bet on Twitter doing the world at large a good turn under the world’s richest man as its owner.