The social media giant’s new owner is reported to be planning to launch an $8 subscription service starting next week.
Elon Musk plans to start charging the blue check mark on Twitter as early as next week, according to media reports, as the closely watched billionaire plans take shape quickly.
Citing internal documents and people familiar with the matter, The New York Times and Bloomberg reported Thursday that Musk aims to launch the $8 subscription service for users who want to get or keep the check mark from Monday.
The Tesla CEO’s plans come as the billionaire seeks to boost revenue and clamp down on spam accounts after completing the platform’s $44 billion purchase last week.
Despite its influential position in politics and journalism, Twitter, which launched in 2006, rarely made a profit and posted a net loss of $270 million in the second quarter of this year.
Under the current Twitter system, popular users and accounts considered to be of general interest can apply for a checkmark to verify their identity for free.
Originally introduced to prevent accounts from impersonating public figures, the check mark has come to be seen as a status symbol and, to critics, a sign of liberal elitism.
Under Musk’s planned overhaul, users will not be required to verify their identity, according to the New York Times.
The changes will initially come in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and existing users will have a temporary period to sign up or lose their checkmark, the newspaper said.
In a series of tweets on Tuesday, Musk called the current verification procedure for high-profile accounts “nonsense” and a “lords and peasants system.”
“Power to the people! Blue for $8 a month,” Musk tweeted.
Musk also plans to cut up to half of the San Francisco-based company’s 7,500 employees, Bloomberg and The Verge report.
Musk’s takeover of the platform has become a buffer to the heated debate about freedom of expression, misinformation and hate online in the age of social media.
Musk, who described himself as an “absolute of free speech,” criticized Twitter’s moderation policies and accused the company of favoring left-wing views.
While critics have expressed concerns that Musk’s ownership of the platform could pave the way for more hate speech and disinformation, many conservatives have welcomed the acquisition as an antidote to big tech’s censorship of politically incorrect speech.
Musk, who has portrayed himself as a political moderate, has spoken of the need for a “common digital town square” that allows for a diversity of viewpoints while insisting that he does not favor a “free-for-all scene of hell”.
Despite Musk’s reassurances, major brands including General Motors, General Mills and Audi have paused their ads on the platform as they seek to clarify their direction under their new owner.
Twitter generates more than 90 percent of its revenue from advertising, which took in $4.5 billion last year. Musk said he wants to reduce the company’s reliance on advertisers.
“Devoted student. Bacon advocate. Beer scholar. Troublemaker. Falls down a lot. Typical coffee enthusiast.”