Twitter’s revamped Blue subscription sporting paid verification badges predictably backfired last week, leading Twitter to suspend the program within days of the launch. While plenty of people pointed out the problems with paid verification before the feature launched, new reporting shows Twitter knew how it’d play out as well. However, the company’s new overlord Elon Musk wouldn’t listen.
As reported in the Platformer newsletter written by Casey Newton and Zoë Schiffer (it’s also available in full on The Verge), Twitter’s trust and safety team prepared a seven-page document detailing several potential problems with the new Twitter Blue and recommendations to help avoid some of the worst consequences. Platformer obtained the document, which was prepared days ahead of the November 9th launch of the new Twitter Blue. It predicts with “eerie accuracy” the events that followed Blue’s launch.
“Motivated scammers/bad actors could be willing to pay … to leverage increased amplification to achieve their ends where their upside exceeds the cost,” the document says in its first recommendation. The document highlights other problems, including impersonation of high-profile accounts, including “world leaders, advertisers, brand partners, election officials,” and more, and warned that removing the legacy verification badge from accounts could drive users away from Twitter for good.
Additionally, the document highlights problems with removing legacy verification, noting that there’s no automated way to do so.
“Given that we will have a large amount of legacy verified users on the platform (400K Twitter customers), and that we anticipate we’ll need to debadge a large number of legacy verified accounts if they decide not to pay for Blue, this will require high operational lift without investment,” the document says. It’s worth noting the document came before Twitter laid off about 80 percent of its contract workers.
Platformer notes that the trust and safety team did gain support for some recommendations. Notably, the team recommended using the ‘official’ badge to retain verification for high-profile accounts, a solution that Musk killed off after launch but later returned following the flood of impersonations that came with the Blue launch.
Beyond that, Platformer describes the document as a “wish list” of features that would have made Twitter safer and easier to use. Most changes were not approved.
Sources confirmed to Platformer that Musk was briefed on the document, as well as his attorney, Alex Spiro, and director of product management Esther Crawford. Platformer notes Crawford has become one of Musk’s top lieutenants in recent weeks. Moreover, she was sympathetic to concerns raised in the document but declined to implement suggestions that would delay Blue’s launch.
The Platformer newsletter also digs into internal details connected to the contractor layoffs, a major code freeze, and ongoing fallout from advertisers pulling out of Twitter — it’s well worth reading if you’re curious to learn more about Twitter.
For more details on the Twitter turmoil, read all of MobileSyrup’s coverage here.