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This newsletter is sponsored by the 2022 Equity Crowdfunding Week.
Some of Los Angeles’ most prominent status symbols are now tied to billionaire Elon Musk – first Teslas, now the blue check on Twitter.
When news broke this weekend that the social media site now in the hands of Musk would begin charging folks $20 per month to maintain their blue check verification badges through the Twitter Blue subscription service, users cried out mixed reactions.
The change is one of many Musk plans to enact as “Chief Twit.” Musk’s theory is that by forcing people to whip out their wallets to get verified, Twitter will cut down on bot accounts. Musk also claimed that his plan is to turn Twitter into a bastion of “free speech,” but by paywalling verification, he could end up doing the very opposite by locking out legitimate users who can’t afford to participate in the discourse with a blue check.
Some people are clearly into this, including podcaster Joe Rogan and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who called the deal “one of the most significant developments for free speech in modern times” on Fox News.
Then there’s a running list of celebrities who’ve tapped out of Twitter that includes Shonda Rhimes, who told her 2 million followers she’s “not hanging around for whatever Elon has planned.” Grammy-winning singer Toni Braxton also said, “hate speech under the veil of ‘free speech’ is unacceptable; therefore I am choosing to stay off Twitter as it is no longer a safe space for myself, my sons and other [people of color].”
How it’ll work: People who opt out of paying for the $19.99 tier of Twitter Blue once it launches in coming weeks won’t keep their coveted blue check and will have it removed after 90 days, according to The Verge.
While there’s a lot of uproar about Musk’s move, let’s take a step back and examine who exactly this will directly apply to.
Firstly, there’s our city’s most famous denizens, celebrities; the A-to-D-listers who opted to move their dealings from the corners of the Chateau Marmont to the digital town square and use Twitter to connect with fans and brands alike. Social media’s useful to Hollywood’s stars– and by extension, the entire Tinsel town industry whose lights they keep twinkling– because it provides the valuable illusion that they’re connected to their fans. Though bad takes abound often, there’s also times (like when The Rock tweeted back at our editor Steve last week) when the public figure finds it beneficial to get their message out directly.
Expect that all to come crumbling down if verification can be purchased for $20 a month.
“If you’re well known, you’re more likely to be a target for impersonation and/or there’s more public interest in being able to verify that your statements are yours,” astrophysicist Katie Mack explained on Twitter, adding breaking down the verification barriers would lead to “more noise, less signal.”
Should we cry over celebrities not being able to give banal or terrible takes on a platform that’s never really catered to them? It’s not a concern for, say, Taylor Swift’s team to fork over an additional $240 annually to maintain her online legitimacy. But those trying to break into stardom will have a harder job of it unless they can afford the payout or are already famous, since a future public figure has more to lose if their brand is tanked because of impersonators.
Twitter has also been instrumental in holding famous people accountable for their past (and increasingly) current terrible hot takes, which would be harder to do with a proliferation of the Twitter equivalent of Finsta accounts starting to pop up.
When Twitter first rolled out verifications in 2009, the reason stated was to prove to readers that an “account of public interest” was authentic – in part because St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa sued Twitter for allowing accounts impersonating him. La Russa ended up settling the case, but it sparked a debate over who should be verified online and led to Twitter’s current system for blue checkmarks.
Well, we’re not in 2009 anymore, and trust in media institutions is eroding fast.
Remember when comedian Patti Harrison got banned because she impersonated Nilla Wafers, and ran amok on Twitter pretending the brand was being homophobic? Yeah, as hilarious as that incident was, it could happen a lot more frequently now if the verification process becomes paid. Brands will not continue spending ad dollars on a platform just to watch a bunch of 4Chan Pepes flock to the site pretending to be them.
Either Elon is cutting off his advertisers’ nose to spite the libs, or he truly believes in the retention rate of anonymous harassers willing to pay a sizable monthly fee for the LOLz.
From an L.A. perspective, there’s a slew of local industries ripe for exploitation by false actors. Besides the obvious issue of Hollywood impersonations, there’s shadier, less regulated industries – including Musk’s personal favorite, cryptocurrency – where rug-pulls abound. Less oversight on Twitter’s verification and moderation processes could make the platform a scammer’s dream.
And at a hyper-local level there’s the possibility of neighborhood issues being convoluted by fake news on Twitter. L.A. has a mayoral election coming up, and if there’s any time accurate information is especially important to the community, it’s now.
Who’s going to pass the new verification litmus test, and will legitimate outlets decide to pay into this grift? And how soon might we see our identities stolen on Twitter? Well, that remains to be seen, but now seems as good a time as any for everyone to brush up on some guides on how to spot – and call out – misinformation online. – Samson Amore
The 2022 Equity Crowdfunding Week
From Boxabl houses to 1000 miles-per-charge EVs, web3 companies to robotics, food and beverage to cannabis this conference will have it all. Meet the heads of industries, from the CFO of Weedmaps to the Dapper Labs team and even the founder of Cryptokitties. It’s 3 days of events, exhibitions, parties, workshops and off-site events, including an opening party at the POPL mansion in Beverly Hills and a pitch competition with a $5K cash prize. Additionally, Dapper Labs will be releasing an NFT wallet marketplace for the conference to all attendees.Need we say more? see you there: https://startupstarter.tv/dotla #2022ECW #StartupStarter
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