Twitter is delaying the rollout of verification check marks to subscribers of its new $7.99 a month subscription service until after Tuesday’s midterm elections, according to an internal post viewed by The New York Times and two people with knowledge of the decision.
The company made the call a day after announcing that it was rolling out the program for people to receive a verification check mark on their profile for the monthly fee. On Saturday, the company had said in notes accompanying a new update to the Twitter app that the paid verification system was now a feature of the website’s subscription service, Twitter Blue.
“Power to the people,” the announcement said. “Your account will get a blue check mark, just like the celebrities, companies, and politicians you already follow.”
But many Twitter users and employees raised concerns that the new pay-for-play badges could cause confusion ahead of Tuesday’s elections because users could easily create verified accounts — say, posing as President Biden or as lawmakers or news outlets and publishing false information about voting results — which could potentially sow discord. In an internal Slack channel on Saturday, one Twitter employee asked why the social network was “making such a risky change before elections, which has the potential of causing election interference.”
A manager working on the verification badge project responded on Sunday that “we’ve made the decision to move the launch of this release to Nov. 9, after the election.”
Twitter, whose communications team has been almost entirely laid off, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Nov. 9 is the day immediately following Tuesday’s election, and many races may still be undecided as votes are tallied.
Charging for the verification check mark program had been one of the changes made by Elon Musk, who took over Twitter late last month in a $44 billion buyout. The billionaire is under financial pressure from the deal, which he partly financed with $13 billion in debt. Twitter has long been unprofitable and, like other social media companies, it faces a weakening in digital advertising spending as the global economy tips toward a recession.
On Friday, Mr. Musk laid off roughly half of Twitter’s employees, or about 3,700 jobs. He said at the time that he had no choice but to make the cuts because the company was losing $4 million a day.
Mr. Musk and his advisers have also been discussing various ways to wring more money out of Twitter. In addition to the check mark program, they have talked about adding paid direct messages — which would let users send private messages to high-profile users — to the service, as well as “paywalled” videos, which would mean that certain videos could not be viewed unless users paid a fee. They have also discussed reviving Vine, a onetime short-form video platform.
On Sunday, Mr. Musk said Twitter would continue to crack down on accounts that pretend to be other people. “Going forward, any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying ‘parody’ will be permanently suspended,” Mr. Musk said in a tweet.