Twitterâs trust and safety team compiled a seven-page document outlining the dangers associated with paid verification. What would stop people from Âimpersonating politicians or brands? They ranked the risk a âP0,â the highest possible. But Musk and his team refused to take any recommendations that would delay the launch.
Twitter Blueâs paid verification system was unveiled on November 5. Almost immediately, fake verified accounts flooded the platform. An image of Mario giving the middle finger from what looked like the official Nintendo account stayed up for more than a day. An account masquerading as the drug manufacturer Eli Lilly tweeted that insulin would now be free; company executives begged Twitter to take down the tweet. The marketing team tried to do damage control. âYou build trust by being transparent, predictable, and thoughtful,â one former employee says. âWe were none of those with this launch.â
Days after the subscription service debuted, Twitter canned it. Yoel Roth, the head of the team whose warnings had been ignored, resigned. In an all-hands meeting, Musk vowed not to relaunch Twitter Blue until the company had gotten a handle on impersonators. (Shortly after he did, in mid-December, ostensibly with defenses in place, a columnist for the WashingtonPostmanaged to get a fake account for a U.S. senator verified.)
Muskâs blundering left a deep scar. ÂTwitter Blue was meant to begin shifting Twitterâs sales away from ads toward subscriptions. But while chasing a relatively paltry new cash stream, Musk torched the companyâs ad business â the source of the vast majority of its billions in revenue. The Blue disaster accelerated a rush of advertisers abandoning the platform, including Eli Lilly, and by December, what was left of Twitterâs sales team began offering hundreds of thousands of dollars in free ad spend to lure back Âmarketers. (It did not work.)
In a series of tweets, Musk blamed the companyâs âmassive drop in revenueâ on âactivist groups pressuring advertisers.â To Musk, it was anyoneâs fault but his own.
The removal of the feature, known as #ThereIsHelp, has not been previously reported. It had shown at the top of specific searches contacts for support organisations in many countries related to mental health, HIV, vaccines, child sexual exploitation, Covid19, gender-based violence, natural disasters and freedom of expression.