April 3, 2023
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether the paid ‘blue check’ mark on Twitter is the right approach. We also look at the increase in Kashmiri women applicants to perform Hajj, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Paid “blue check” mark on Twitter – Is Musk right in his approach?
As some big tech companies lay off thousands of people amid cost-cutting measures, Twitter, under owner Elon Musk, is never out of the spotlight. Since Musk’s take-over, the social media platform has been through the wringer as he consecutively proposes controversial changes.
The latest is removing legacy badges and reserving the coveted blue check marks for paying users. If you’re an individual and want the blue check, there’s Twitter Blue. If you’re an organisation, there’s the “Verified Organisations” option. Musk believes this is one way to ensure the platform is free of bots and misinformation. Others believe this to be a silly rule and will have the opposite consequences.
Musk’s takeover of Twitter is a saga in itself. Ever since he bought shares of the company last January, the company has been a constant in the news cycle. By March 2022, Musk had a 5% stake in the company. He reached the threshold the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) deems large enough to mandate public disclosure.
The billionaire only revealed his stake in early April. By this time, he had about 9.4% of the company’s shares. Twitter seemed okay with Musk and told the SEC it would appoint him to the company’s board of directors. After much deliberation, Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal announced Musk wouldn’t be on the board.
Musk then offered to buy the company for $54.20 a share, which valued Twitter at $44 billion. Twitter deployed the “poison pill” measure to stop Musk’s potential takeover. The poison pill is a shareholder rights plan. When any investor expands their stake in Twitter to 15% without the board’s consent, other shareholders have the right to buy a portion of Twitter’s shares for a discount. The objective was to dilute Musk’s stake. At the time, Musk owned about 9% of the company and was its largest individual shareholder.
While the board didn’t outright reject Musk’s deal, they wanted to explore options. However, the board did green-light the Musk deal. But Musk dragged this out further and announced a pause on the deal. He complained about the platform hosting bots and fake or spam accounts. It was his bone of contention. He wanted to investigate Twitter’s claim that less than 5% of its accounts were spam. Musk wasn’t happy with Agrawal’s explanation.
What followed was a series of lawsuits and complaints to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) between Musk and Twitter. There was also a whistleblower who claimed Twitter lied to Musk about spam accounts and that the company was a decade behind on safety standards. Musk eventually took over.
Bots and fake accounts have been a fixation for Musk for a while. His latest attempts at cleaning up the platform concern the blue check mark for verified accounts and users. Musk said only verified accounts will be featured on Twitter’s ‘For You’ page, and only these accounts can vote in Twitter polls.
The entire concept of Twitter verification goes back to 2008 and NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal. He was one of the first celebrities to be impersonated on Twitter. He joined Twitter in part because someone had been impersonating him. A lawsuit by Tony La Russa, the former manager of the St Louis Cardinals baseball team, was probably the inciting incident. In 2009, the company decided to take action and experiment with “verified accounts”. They’ve run into some trouble with it. In 2017, it suspended the verification program after a prominent white supremacist was verified.
So how does one get verified now? You sign up for Twitter Blue at $8 a month. Musk wants to ensure the platform is free of spam and believes some amount of gatekeeping will achieve that.
VIEW: Let’s clean the place up
Musk’s long-standing crusade against bots and spam on Twitter has come to a head. From his perspective, having paid verifications to put out recommended tweets and vote in polls will increase the cost of using AI bots. It could deter their presence on the platform and make them easier to identify. Musk said it’s the only realistic way to address the problem. In recent years, people have complained about not being verified and confusion about the process. For Musk, a subscription will erase any ambiguities.
Twitter isn’t the only company with a similar verified scheme. There’s Meta Verified to verify Facebook and Instagram profiles. As these companies have come under repeated scrutiny for misinformation and disinformation on their platforms, one way to solve that is to have a barrier to entry to ensure authenticity. Twitter won’t be the sole arbiter of truth. Organisations that sign up for the Verified Organisation will have complete control of vetting and verifying affiliated accounts.
Musk endeavours to make Twitter the safest and most trusted place on the internet and further its role as a global town square. When the paid blue check mark was initially launched, he talked about making Twitter more egalitarian. For some, the argument against giving Musk money seems like virtue signalling. After all, people give money to companies that do things they object to. It’s a service like any other.
COUNTERVIEW: It’s counterproductive
So if you want a verified blue check mark against your name on Twitter, set aside some money. For some people, another $100 a year to their budget for this subscription isn’t feasible. The existing verification system isn’t flawless, but it does the job. It largely succeeds in removing a sizeable chunk of the suspicious activity.
For some, $8 a month is not much, but the money wasn’t the point. When Musk announced the new policy last week, several high-profile personalities, like another NBA star, Lebron James, spoke out against it. Musk sees the legacy blue tick as a mark of clout and a status symbol. It’s more than that. For many, Twitter is a news platform. A Pew poll showed 53% of US users use it for news. It’s why advertisers swarmed to Twitter. It’s dangerous to play with the authenticity of the news and other information.
The new policy could be Musk’s way of making money as the company needs it. When it launched Twitter Blue, the service made just $11 million on mobile in its first three months. Twitter needs revenue to survive. Advertising has been the main source of that revenue but has declined since Musk took over. Broadly, it’ll become more difficult for people to recognise who and what’s real on Twitter. Musk’s goal of making Twitter a free-speech town square utopia through this new policy could come back to bite him.
- Elon Musk vs. Twitter: all the news about one of the biggest, messiest tech deals ever – The Verge
- A timeline of Elon Musk’s 9-month chaotic saga to buy Twitter – Business Insider
- Musk’s Battle Against The Bots: Twitter Boss Redefines Blue-Ticks – TechRound
- Elon Musk says Twitter will only show verified accounts on its algorithmic timeline – TechCrunch
- Why Does Twitter Verify Some Accounts? – New York Times
- Should You Invest In Paid Verification From Twitter Blue Or Meta Verified? – Search Engine Journal
- Why a Paid ‘Blue Tick’ Verification on Twitter Is Fundamentally Flawed – The Wire
What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) Elon Musk’s new Twitter verification policy is good.
b) Elon Musk’s new Twitter verification policy is bad.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
Is the Army Chief Allowing Himself to Be Used to Make Political Points on China?
For the Left:
Anti-RSS Diaries: How Georgetown University’s RSS Factsheet Got its ‘Facts’ Wrong
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Kashmiri women to perform hajj without mahrams (Jammu and Kashmir) – More than 4,300 women have applied for Hajj without a mahram this year, following the Saudi government’s announcement that a mahram is no longer required to join a female pilgrim, a first-of-its-kind decision. The decision is part of the current Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman’s ‘social change’ to alter the country’s closed-off image. Officials in Jammu and Kashmir previously stated that approximately 132 women from Kashmir would perform Hajj without a Mahram this year.
Why it matters: The term ‘mahram’ refers to a legal guardian in Islam. A mahram can be the father or any blood relative whom the woman can’t marry, or her husband once she is married. The Ministry of Minority Affairs has received 4,314 applications from women so far. The decision has been very well received by Kashmiri women, especially the ones who are aged 45 and above, as the ministry has received the highest number of applications from this age group.
Students to witness live court working via ‘SAMVADA’ (Kerala) – Understanding court proceedings at the High Court has become simpler for school pupils in Kerala due to an initiative named ‘SAMVADA’ introduced by the High Court Legal Service Committee (HLSC). The program seeks to teach students from Class 8 to Plus Two about judicial procedures and the legal system, using the State Board, CBSE, and ICSE curriculum, in order to impart social ideals and create responsible citizens.
Why it matters: School pupils can participate in a 10-minute interactive exercise with High Court Judges. The project aims to make senior citizens and parents aware of a variety of issues, including the history of the High Court, the hierarchy of courts in the Judicial system, the Rule of Law, the Constitution of India, laws relating to Crimes and Punishment, such as POCSO law, the law relating to sexual offences, cyber crimes, and so on. This program would not only make the studies and lessons interactive but also enrich the student experience.
Over 15 lakh pensioners added in 3 years (Jharkhand) – According to statistics acquired from the Department of Women, Child Development, and Social Security, the Jharkhand administration has significantly expanded pension coverage across several categories since taking office in December 2019. 6.6 lakh beneficiaries were enrolled as retirees across five groups in the first 19 years since the state was carved out of Bihar in November 2000. This figure had risen to 21.45 million as of March 27 of this year.
Why it matters: Pensions are provided by the state to five groups of people: the aged, especially vulnerable tribal communities, widows, separated/destitute deserted or abandoned women, and the handicapped. According to sources, Chief Minister Hemant Soren held the ‘Sarkar Aapke Dwar’ (government at your doorway) outreach programs twice in all districts, which increased enrollment. Despite the increase in security cover, the Jharkhand administration has also been accused of excluding several women from the pension umbrella. The government, however, is trying its best to provide pensions to as many eligible beneficiaries as possible.
All 26 accused in 2002 violence released (Gujarat) – A Gujarat court has cleared all 26 people suspected of gangraping and murdering more than a dozen members of a minority group in separate instances in Kalol during religious violence in 2002, stating lack of proper evidence. The suspects were part of a mob that went on a spree during the communal disturbances that erupted on March 1, 2002, following the February 27 Sabarmati railway burning event in Godhra.
Why it matters: The prosecution looked into 190 witnesses and 334 pieces of documentary evidence to support its case, but the court found contradictions in the witness statements, which did not support the prosecution’s case. This is another instance of polarising politics in Gujarat wherein clear attempts to divide the people are being made. Recently, the persons convicted of assault, rape, and murder of Bilkis Bano and her family were released, and one such person was included in the political rally of a BJP member.
New shelter erected for Myanmar refugees (Manipur) – The Manipur government is constructing a new shelter home in the Churachandpur region to house Myanmar migrants. Previously, the state administration designated two locations in the districts of Chandel and Tengnoupal for displaced Myanmar citizens. On Saturday, members of the state government’s Cabinet sub-committee for Myanmar national rehabilitation visited Singngat sub-divisional headquarters and identified a site for the proposed third temporary shelter home for Myanmar nationals who fled their country in the aftermath of the unrest there.
Why it matters: Minister Letpao Haokip told district authorities that Myanmar citizens who left their country due to turmoil should be recognised and housed in a refuge home. On compassionate principles, they will be supplied with food, shelter, and other essential necessities, including health care. Inmates should also be given identification papers. They should be permitted to remain in the camp until normality returns to their native nation or a State or Central authority issue an order in this respect, he added.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
₹6,281 crore – Delhi achieves an excise revenue milestone of ₹6,821 crore.