SAN FRANCISCO – Twitter on Wednesday unveiled — and then almost immediately scrapped — a new gray “official” label for some high-profile accounts as Elon Musk struggles to revamp the influential platform following his $44 billion buyout.
“I just killed it,” Musk tweeted just hours after the new tag was added to government accounts as well as those of big companies and major media outlets.
“Please note that Twitter will do lots of dumb things in coming months. We will keep what works & change what doesn’t,” the world’s richest man added to explain the U-turn.
The sudden change of heart will invite further scrutiny of Musk’s plans for Twitter a week after he laid off thousands of workers and drew a massive drop in spending by advertisers, who are wary of the site’s direction.
The botched rollout came ahead of the hotly anticipated introduction of a revamped subscription model in which the site’s famed blue checkmark would be made available for a fee of $7.99, though Musk has also said the price would be adjusted by country.
The blue tick has been a mark of an account’s authenticity and doubts emerged that public figures or media outlets would pay for it. The official gray tag was seen by observers as a workaround to solve that problem.
The launch of the new official label began on Wednesday and was on the accounts of companies such as Apple or BMW and public ones such as the White House and major media outlets.
But only a few hours later, it was gone for many of them.
Accounts belonging to Agence France-Presse, BBC News, Pope Francis or the controversial rapper Kanye West that had received the “official” badge, saw the mention disappear.
‘A lot of work’
Esther Crawford, an executive who announced the gray tick idea on Tuesday, insisted that the official label was still going to be part of the relaunch, but that “we are just focusing on government and commercial entities to begin with.”
During a panel for advertisers broadcast on Twitter, Musk exercised some damage control, admitting that a lot of work lay ahead to get the site to the place he wished to reach.
“We’ve got a lot to do on the software side. I can’t emphasize that enough,” he said.
Musk took control of Twitter after a drawn-out back-and-forth legal battle in which the mercurial tycoon tried to renege on a deal that many believe he overpaid for.
It emerged on Tuesday that Musk sold $4 billion worth of shares in Tesla to help pay for a transaction in which he took on billions of dollars in debt.
The $7.99 subscription idea is seen as one way to overcome the loss in advertisers since Musk took over the company.
Twitter last week fired half of its 7,500 employees, which Musk said was necessary as the company was losing $4 million a day. – AFP