Elon Musk has launched a controversially divisive proposal to charge users a fee of £8 a month to verify their identity on Twitter. This has started a debate about the idea of having to pay to prove you are yourself and what that could mean for the future of our online identities. His plan has already been met with a variety of criticism, including the criticism that some users may struggle to pay the fee, and can be persecuted by those with more money who are able to ‘buy’ the rights to be someone else.
The blue tick of verification, which was previously granted to high-profile and influential people, has become an interesting symbol of status on the internet. Jon Sopel, for one, was once mistaken for a fellow news journalist and the differences between their respective brands were revealed. While still being high profile, many people like me struggle to achieve genuine recognition of their brand, as I was once mistaken for Sopel due to a lack of blue tick of verification. And now, deprived of his verification, being mistaken for Jon could be much easier for him to do.
If Twitter’s plan by Musk goes ahead, a people could have an easier time claiming to be others if those people cannot afford to pay the fee. Furthermore, this could prove to be a new way of making money online if more and more services offer customers the option of authenticating their identity. Although verification used to be free and it is concerning that now a price must be paid to be able to prove who we are. It could also be argued that there needs to be further investigation into authentication processes as they are currently not structured in a way that will prevent people from others being able to impersonate someone else.
In addition, the question of whether or not to upgrade for the £8 fee is a question that may need to be asked. While it is now easier to masquerade as famous people or celebrities, the potential of ruining one’s reputation or even brand is still alive and well. The legitimate critique of the idea of having to pay to authenticate our own identities has made many individuals uncertain of what the future may hold for their online presence and their ability to protect it.
Musk’s idea of charging people to authenticate themselves on Twitter is a bold but potentially detrimental plan. It remains to be seen whether this will become the norm in online service protection and verification going forward, or whether alternate forms of authentication may be implemented to keep scammers from claiming to be us.
Elon Musk is an innovative entrepreneur and engineer, who is the founder and CEO of the aerospace company SpaceX and was previously the CEO of Tesla Inc. He currently holds multiple influential positions and his influence stretches beyond the world of technology and engineering and into the social media world. His plan surrounding the £8 fee for authenticating an identity could prove to be an interesting shift in how we prove our identity on social media, and one that could have potentially far-reaching repercussions.
Jon Sopel is the North America editor of the BBC and a frequent face on television and social media. He has become a familiar name due to his various roles within the BBC but he is also increasingly recognised for his reach into the Twittersphere. The incident which compared Jon and I earlier is further testament to his recognizability and his mark in the journalism world.