Twitter Team Sent Musk a 7-Page List of Risks From Paid Verification


  • Twitter warned Elon Musk of the dangers in his new badge system before its launch, per Platformer.
  • The trust and safety team said the rework would give rise to impersonation issues and confusion.
  • It also said Twitter doesn’t have an automated way to unverify users who don’t pay $8 for a badge.

Elon Musk was warned of the impersonation issues and widespread confusion that would arise from selling blue checkmarks for $8. Then he went ahead and did it anyway.

The warning came from Twitter’s trust and safety staff a week before the billionaire implemented his overhauled verification system, per Platformer. The tech newsletter’s founder Casey Newton and editor Zoë Schiffer cited an internal seven-page document from the team that was circulated on November 1.

In the document, Twitter’s team highlighted dangers in Musk’s plans for Twitter Blue and gave recommendations for him to circumvent these issues, Platformer reported on Monday.

Musk and his attorney, Alex Spiro, were briefed on the document, along with Esther Crawford, a director of product management at Twitter, per the newsletter. Insider could not independently verify the document or ascertain who it was sent to. 

In their recommendations, the trust and safety team warned of “impersonation of world leaders, advertisers, brand partners, election officials, and other high profile individuals,” according to Platformer.

The team also predicted scammers and bad actors would be willing to pay $8 to get a checkmark, as the “upside exceeds the cost,” Platformer reported.

Their predicted scenario quickly became reality after Twitter launched its paid badge service on November 9, with spoofers and scammers pretending to be official accounts for former President George W. Bush, pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, and Musk’s company, Tesla.

In the case of Eli Lilly, verification trolls announced that “insulin is free,” causing the company’s stock to nosedive

Twitter paused its $8 subscription model on Thursday amid a deluge of fake accounts, The Washington Post reported.

In its memo, the trust and safety team also highlighted the consequences of removing checkmarks from accounts that were already verified before Musk bought Twitter, according to Platformer.

“Removing privileges and exemptions from legacy verified accounts could cause confusion and loss of trust among high profile users,” the document said, per the site. “Legacy verification provides a critical signal in enforcing impersonation rules, the loss of which is likely to lead to an increase in impersonation of high-profile accounts on Twitter.”

The team cautioned that Twitter did not have a way to automatically unverify accounts that did not pay for $8 verified badges, per Platformer.

With an estimated 400,000 verified Twitter users, the team warned that employees would need to remove a significant number of badges, which would “require high operational lift without investment,” per the site.

Musk’s rollout of the new verified badge system comes as he cut half of the company’s global workforce and said Twitter was losing $4 million per day. The billionaire told staff at an all-hands meeting earlier this month that he sold billions worth of Tesla stock to keep Twitter afloat.

“Please note that Twitter will do lots of dumb things in coming months,” he tweeted on Thursday. “We will keep what works and change what doesn’t.”

Musk and Spiro did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.


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