Elon’s Twitter: Classist Blue Check System… Reinvented As Even More Elitist Gray Checks, Goes Live, Then Elon Says He’s Killed It

from the the-king-is-dead,-long-live-the-king dept

I keep pointing out that Twitter was already doing most of what Elon seems to want to do, but he (and his fans) has not quite realized that. Also, while Twitter was often slow in rolling stuff out, and not the best at explaining what it was doing, many of its features were created pretty thoughtfully and carefully, taking a variety of trade-offs and issues into account. I’ve also tried to get across some of the basic realities of content moderation that Elon seems to have had difficulty grasping, including how he totally misunderstood the purpose and intent of Twitter’s verification process.

While Elon and some others believe it’s a “status” symbol (i.e., something of value worth paying for), the reality is that it was designed and initially used specifically for a safety purpose: to help make it clear that notable users were, in fact, who they said they were. Now, this obviously opens up plenty of (quite reasonable!) concerns about who decides who is and who is not notable. It’s the Wikipedia “not notable” problem all over again.

But, with Elon giving the rapidly diminishing Twitter staff just one week to design a new “verification” program so that only people willing to pay $8 per month get to have a blue checkmark, he was completely upending the system. Especially since the new one… does not have a verification component. Lots of people called out this problem and worried about the potential for abuse. Twitter earlier this week announced it was delaying rolling out the new blue check system until after Tuesday’s election. I doubt this actually had anything to do with the election, and was much more about the system not being ready.

Of course, as we discussed yesterday, even though the new stuff hasn’t been rolled out, the “new” Twitter rolled out what they claimed was the updated app over the weekend, leading Musk stans to pay up and then get annoyed that their coveted blue check wasn’t actually working.

Still, people keep pointing out that this system is going to be widely abused, as it does away with the entire point of the blue check verification system. So, no worries, Twitter has come up with a solution: meet… the gray check.

Esther Crawford, a product management director at Twitter who went a bit viral for sleeping on the floor of the office explained this in a tweet:

So, basically:

But, more to the point, they’re literally just reinventing everything they claimed was bad and wrong. And, yes, they’re making it clear that the new gray check won’t be given out as widely as the blue check, but remember that the blue check was pretty limited in the first place and that was part of the reason why people got so mad about it. Including Elon. Remember the whole talk about how the old system was “lords and peasants” and power to the people?

So, he’s now replaced that system with one that is even more exclusive and, unlike the blue check system that had clear rules and policies (not always good rules, and not always well enforced, but still), the new system… seems to have no details and no official policies as of yet.

And this morning things got even dumber. The “official” gray checkmark started rolling out, but basically everyone started mocking it. Nobody with any design skills seems to have been involved in mocking it up, and it just looked stupidly confusing. It also seemed entirely random who had the official check and who didn’t (lords and peasants, lords and peasants). I mean, SpongeBob got it:

And then… SpongeBob lost it:

Why? It appears that Sir Lord Tweets-a-lot decided to kill it hours after it rolled out:

Meanwhile, Crawford notes that it’s not fully going away, it’s just being limited to some people. Lords and peasants. Lords and peasants.

Once again, a smart leader might have spent let’s say… 90 days going around, talking to people, understanding why things were done the way they were done, and the different trade-offs and challenges and then make a more informed decision. Instead, Musk fired the leadership after about 90 seconds, then immediately (over a weekend) demanded a complete reworking of the system in a week, in the middle of which he fired half of the staff.

That’s… not leadership. That’s a case study in how not to do anything.

Also, I can’t see how any of this is assuring advertisers that the platform is safe to advertise on. Or convincing legitimate people that it’s worth tossing $8 a month to a man who might decide tomorrow not to give anyone a blue check or to jack up the price to $69 a month.

Of course, the $8 blue check that Musk insists is “the great leveler” is already the great leveler… for scammers. There’s already someone who bought their $8 bluecheck, changed their name to Twitter and seemed to have successfully fooled people… with a crypto scam. You know, the thing Musk swore the new blue check system would eliminate.

Yup. Things are going just great…

Filed Under: , , ,
Companies: twitter

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Elon’s Twitter: Classist Blue Check System… Reinvented As Even More Elitist Gray Checks, Goes Live, Then Elon Says He’s Killed It”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Christenson says:

Good Elon, Bad Elon continues

Yes, Nero and Caligula come to mind!

And Elon continues in pattern. First he does something stupid, then the whole world knows, then he walks it back. We already have two cycles this week…firings and clawings back of employees, now this “official” silliness. Umm…”official” to me means it’s someone from twitter.

It’s an extension of what his employees complained about…alternating times when Elon would be belittling and yelling at employees and when he would be charming.

Classic abuser pattern. The only question is what gives first and when — the creditors, the site infrastructure, Elon himself, the scammers/spammers, or the Nazis. If it’s the creditors, what of Tesla? And what if Elon burns himself down in Delaware chancery over his CEO compensation? (Tornetta v Musk)

Could/Would the banks that own Twitter stage a coup and depose Elon? (spitballing, I have no evidence)

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
BernardoVerda (profile) says:

Re: The problem is, it's _not_ rocket science

Well, Elon Musk appears to be (mis)applying the strategy that got SpaceX off the ground — namely reiterate often and don’t be afraid of breaking things — in which failure (in the case of SpaceX, often a literal explosion) was just another learning step on the path to success.

But Twitter isn’t making rockets or selling launches. Twitter can’t simply sweep up the debris from an unintended glitch and try again with new iteration with a few fresh modifications — Twitter has only one “launch vehicle”. If it crash-and-burns, they can’t just yank a fresh new, slightly modified engine out of the shed and stack a new, slightly modified launch vehicle.

Twitter has just the one egg in the one basket; if they keep dropping that basket, that egg will eventually go smash. Humpty Dumpty could tell them how that ends up.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Christenson says:

Re: Re:

There are ways to update a running program — twitter is actually many servers — but as we see, the way Elon is doing it is not a path to success.

Instead, he would need to game out his ideas with some smart people, then roll something out optional and on a small scale.

The smartest person in the room knows they don’t know, and takes all the help they can get from nearby experts.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:


Since I’m a Masto user, I’d like to offer a few tips for onboarding onto/using Masto:

  1. This is the most important tip you’ll get: Don’t sign up for the “flagship” instances. Those two instances⁠—mastodon.social and mastodon.online⁠—are, from what I’ve read on the Fediverse, widely considered to be “too big” and undermoderated thanks in part to their size.
  2. It isn’t hard to find an instance, but recognize that each instance will be smaller than the “flagships”⁠—and that not every instance will federate with one another (or the “flagships”, for that matter). Numerous instances will list defederated/blocked instances on their “about this instance” page, so check with that first.
  3. You can have multiple Mastodon accounts. If you want an account on a “general use” instance and an account on a smaller niche instance, that’s fine. You aren’t limited to one instance⁠—or one user handle, for that matter.
  4. Make sure you read an instance’s “about this instance” page before you sign up to learn what they require to be hidden behind a Content Warning. CWs are less about “censorship” and more about consent⁠—i.e., about letting people see the “subject line” of your post and choose for themselves whether they will engage with your content, especially sensitive/lewd content. (You can always go into your settings and make all CW’d posts expanded on your timeline by default.)
  5. Mastodon is not Twitter. Clout-chasing is a feature on Twitter; on the Fediverse, it’s a bug. Don’t search for fame⁠—search for a community. (And don’t bother with text search, either: Masto doesn’t allow that by design to help prevent brigading and dogpiles.)
  6. Once you’ve got an account, search for the “FediTips” hashtag and read up on how things work. Plenty of longtime users have left a lot of useful advice for newbies.
  7. Speaking of hashtags: CamelCase is your friend⁠—it increases accessibility and readability of your hashtags. Also, hashtags are a bridge across instances, so use hashtags that are common on the Fediverse (e.g., #FediTips) to reach out.
  8. Add descriptions to your uploaded images whenever possible. Accessibility isn’t just for the backend developers⁠.
  9. If/when possible, support your instance admin monetarily. The overwhelming majority of Masto instances are owned by an individual instead of a corporate/government entity, and instance staffs tend to be volunteers.
  10. 🍍
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

'Someone in this room is incompetent and it can't be me, I'm rich!'

‘Do the impossible or you’re fired! What do you mean it didn’t work?! This is everyone’s fault but mine!’

If this wasn’t impacting a bunch of innocent users who are having one of if not their primary social media platform lit aflame and burned around them this would be a comedy for the ages, watching Musk get what he demanded(a chance to show everyone how you really run a social media site) only to run face-first into reminder after reminder that he was dead wrong on so many things.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Chesterton's Fence

Once again, a smart leader might have spent let’s say… 90 days going around, talking to people, understanding why things were done the way they were done, and the different trade-offs and challenges and then make a more informed decision.

… if only there was a name for this sort of thing…

Bloof (profile) says:

He’ll do it again and paint grey checkmarks as an olive branch to ‘The left’, then once the dust has settled, he’ll start pulling verified status from everyone who criticises him or writes news stories he doesn’t like, because he’s too stupid and egotistical to pretend he’s not punishing left wing outlets the way we’ve seen with Facebook. He enjoys getting praise from his right wing cult of personality not to admit it.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...