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Twitter Threatens to Nix Advertisers’ Verification If They Don’t Spend More

Rather than ban neo-Nazis who are scaring advertisers off the platform, X is seemingly resorting to threats.

The outline of the iconic blue Twitter bird logo is visible on a sign in front of X headquarters on July 26, 2023, in San Francisco, California.

Instead of banning neo-Nazis and white supremacists who have overrun Twitter (recently renamed X) and caused concerns for advertisers on the platform, the company is threatening advertisers, saying that if they don’t spend a certain amount of money each quarter, they could risk losing their verification and being impersonated on the platform.

According to emails reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, X is warning brands that they will lose their check mark starting August 7 if they haven’t spent at least $1,000 on ads in the last 30 days or $6,000 on ads in the last 180 days.

Losing their verification could be costly, as it could allow people to create accounts impersonating the brand, with potential consequences outside of the platform. A particularly well-known instance of this happened last year shortly after Elon Musk took over and made it so that anyone could obtain a blue check mark, a system that has been used for years to verify the identity of notable users’ accounts.

In November, an account with a blue check mark pretending to be pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly made waves when it tweeted, “We are excited to announce insulin is free now.” Though the tweet was fake and was removed by Twitter hours later, the damage was already done — Eli Lilly pulled all of its advertising from the platform, lost billions of dollars from its market cap, and was forced to concede that the price of its insulin could stand to be lower.

The threat conveniently comes as the company is also running a promotion around advertising, the emails showed, with a discount on video ads in the “Explore” tab, supposedly timed for the Women’s World Cup.

It’s unclear how many brands X’s threat would affect, though Musk and X are at this point notorious for making promises that are never kept. The company is currently charging brands $1,000 a month for their check marks, though it has given a slate of the most-followed companies on the platform the check for free.

X has been struggling with revenue ever since Musk took over — and, though he recently handed over the position of CEO to former NBC executive Linda Yaccarino, it seems as though his decision-making power still looms large over the platform. The rebrand to “X,” for instance, comes after Musk’s longtime obsession with the letter, and could cost the platform billions of dollars in brand recognition.

Last week, Musk tweeted that the company is losing money due to a “~50 percent drop in advertising revenue.” As of February, more than half of the company’s previous top 1,000 advertisers stopped running ads on the website after Musk rolled back bans on people like Donald Trump and a host of neo-Nazis.

In interviews in June, ad sales staff said that the rise in hate speech and pornography may be major factors driving advertisers off the platform. A flood of hateful content can make advertisers uneasy, fearing that their ad will be served directly next to posts spewing vitriol and hatred.

Meanwhile, Musk has remained committed to personally spreading disinformation on the platform.

On Tuesday, the right-wing billionaire tweeted a dubious conspiracy theory that the cardiac arrest of Bronny James, LeBron James’s son, could be linked to the COVID-19 vaccine. Users quickly attached a “Community Note” — X’s crowdsourced fact-checking system — to the tweet debunking the claim, saying that contracting the virus puts individuals at far greater risk of cardiological events than the vaccine does, but the fact check has since been removed.

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