Twitter announced Saturday that it would begin charging customers $7.99 a month to receive a verification check mark on their profiles, one of a raft of product changes that the company has been discussing since Elon Musk’s takeover a little more than a week ago.
The announcement was included in notes accompanying a new update to the Twitter app that appeared in Apple’s App Store. The notes explained that the paid verification system was now a feature of the website’s subscription service, Twitter Blue.
“Power to the people,” the announcement said. “Your account will get a blue checkmark, just like the celebrities, companies, and politicians you already follow.”
To fund his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter, Musk loaded the company with $13 billion in debt, which comes with more than $1 billion a year in interest payments. That has put Twitter under enormous pressure to cut costs and raise revenue. This past week, Twitter laid off roughly half the company’s workforce, or about 3,700 jobs.
In addition to charging for verification, Musk and his advisers have been weighing numerous other ideas to bring in more revenue, from putting certain videos behind paywalls to reviving Vine, the now-defunct short-form video platform.
The update notes unveiled Saturday also promised that subscribers would receive other benefits, including “half the ads & much better ones,” as well as the ability to post longer videos on Twitter.
And in a series of tweets Saturday, Musk said the company was working on an update that would give users the ability to attach long-form text to tweets, which he said would eliminate “the absurdity of notepad screenshots.”
But the change to Twitter’s signature verification system has proved especially controversial. In the past, the company manually assigned a blue circle with a white check mark to high-profile figures and businesses. With the midterm elections approaching Tuesday, some election-integrity advocates have voiced fears that the new paid verification system could make it easier for bad actors to impersonate political candidates or other public figures.
The update notes did not discuss any steps Twitter might take to prevent impersonation. But asked on Twitter how he would combat that problem, Musk said Saturday that the company would suspend impostors and keep their money. “If scammers want to do this a million times, that’s just a whole bunch of free money,” he said.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.