West News Wire: Twitter has introduced a $7.99 monthly membership service that includes a blue check that is now exclusively granted to verified accounts as new owner Elon Musk updates the platform’s verification mechanism soon before the US midterm elections.

Twitter announced on Saturday that users who “sign up now” will get the blue checkmark next to their names “exactly like the celebrities, businesses, and politicians you currently follow,” according to an update for Apple iOS devices. Verified accounts don’t seem to be losing their checks as of yet.

If imposters decide to pay for the subscription and adopt the names of politicians and election authorities, the fact that anyone can obtain the blue check could result in confusion and the spread of misinformation prior to Tuesday’s polls.

Along with widespread layoffs that began Friday, many fear the social platform that public agencies, election boards, police departments and news outlets use to keep people reliably informed could become lawless if content moderation and verification are chipped away.

The change represents the end of Twitter’s current verification system, which was launched in 2009 to prevent impersonations of high-profile accounts such as celebrities and politicians.

Before the overhaul, Twitter had about 423,000 verified accounts, many of them rank-and-file journalists from around the globe that the company verified regardless of how many followers they had.

Experts have raised grave concerns about upending the platform’s verification system that, while not perfect, has helped Twitter’s 238 million daily users determine whether the accounts they were getting information from were authentic.

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Current verified accounts include celebrities, athletes, influencers and other high-profile public figures, along with government agencies and politicians worldwide, journalists and news outlets, activists, as well as businesses and brands.

Also on Saturday, UN human rights chief Volker Turk urged Musk to ensure respect for human rights is central to the social network, in an open letter.

“Like all companies, Twitter needs to understand the harms associated with its platform and take steps to address them. Respect for our shared human rights should set the guardrails for the platform’s use and evolution. In short, I urge you to ensure human rights are central to the management of Twitter under your leadership,” Turk wrote.

 

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