As a regular MSNBC pundit is calling for Elon Musk to be stripped of his citizenship for trying to reintroduce free speech protections to Twitter, the new owner is outraging blue checkers by suggesting a monthly charge for verified users. Figures like CNBC’s Jim Cramer declared: “I’m not paying them anything. They should pay me.” Some of us would be willing to pay an added monthly fee to support a true free speech alternative on social media if Musk keeps his word.
Of course, for full disclosure, I would first have to get a blue check to get charged for a blue check. I have been barred from being verified for years by Twitter despite being a columnist for newspapers like USA Today and the Hill as well as a legal analyst for CBS, NBC, BBC, and now Fox over the last two decades. I have been ranked in the top five law professors on Twitter, but I was still turned down over a dozen times under multiple categories.
I have previously joked about the bar on verification and I am not sure how much the blue check honestly does for individuals. Indeed, there are some advantages. I can presumably deny prior statements since they were made by an entirely unverified person using my name for over a decade. Yet, as a long-time critic of Twitter’s censorship system, there has been a long curiosity over the denial.
Musk has indicated that he is now looking into such concerns and there may be greater transparency in the weeks to come.
However, Musk is looking for ways to reduce the dependency on advertisers and many of us would support that effort. Recently, General Motors suspended advertising on Twitter until it can evaluate the implications of Musk’s new policies. Some of us immediately criticized the action by GM over the move.
The company had no problem with supporting Twitter when it was running one of the largest censorship systems in history — or supporting TikTok (which is Chinese owned and has been denounced for state control and access to data). Twitter has been denounced for years for its bias against conservative and dissenting voices, including presumably many GM customers on the right. None of that was a concern for GM but the pledge to restore free speech to Twitter warrants a suspension.
Musk’s pledge to restore free speech protections will not be realized if these pundits and politicians can use corporations to drain the company, a repeated and successful means used in the past. Making the company more dependent on actual customers rather than these companies can reduce such pressure to resume censorship policies.
Many customers never wanted the censorship being sold by companies like Facebook and Twitter, but they lacked any alternative. Twitter can now be that alternative. We can show that there is a market for free speech but supporting Twitter in trying to reduce the dependence on corporate sponsors.