Controversy Surrounds X’s Subscription Perks for Designated Groups

Elon Musk’s X, formerly known as Twitter, has stirred controversy as reports reveal it granted subscription perks, including blue check marks, to individuals associated with designated terrorist groups and entities barred from operating in the US, according to campaigners.

The Tech Transparency Project (TTP) uncovered instances where X had bestowed blue check marks on accounts linked to Hezbollah members and others, allowing for longer posts and enhanced promotion for a monthly fee of $8 (£6.40).

Following the report, X removed some blue check marks, asserting the robustness of its security measures. Elon Musk’s decision to monetize the verification badge sparked criticism, with concerns raised about exacerbating disinformation and opening avenues for impersonation.

Previously offered as a free verification tool, the blue check mark aimed to authenticate the identity behind accounts, encompassing journalists, world leaders, and celebrities. However, the practice raised eyebrows when extended to individuals facing US sanctions, prompting accusations of platform misuse and violation of sanctions laws.

Transitioning to a paid model introduces potential legal ramifications, according to the Tech Transparency Project, which noted X’s removal of blue check marks from identified accounts following its report.

Among the flagged accounts, the TTP highlighted one associated with Ansar Allah, known as the Houthis, suggesting payment for the verification badge. The Houthis, sanctioned in both the US and UK, pose concerns about disrupting international shipping in the Red Sea and Yemen’s stability.

The TTP’s report underscored X’s sale of premium services to entities under US sanctions, citing examples like Hassan Nasrallah’s blue check-marked account. Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s secretary-general, purportedly underwent X’s ID verification process, although the specifics remain unclear.

Responding to concerns, X emphasised compliance with legal obligations, subjecting its subscription process to independent scrutiny by payment providers. While addressing the identified concerns, X pledged to take appropriate action following a review of the TTP’s findings.

Katie Paul, director of the TTP, remarked on X’s perceived loss of platform control, questioning its adherence to free speech ideals while navigating controversial decisions, including the reinstatement of Kanye West’s account post-ban.

Furthermore, the TTP flagged other accounts, including NTV, a state-controlled Russian television channel, as recipients of subscription perks, highlighting the complexities of sanctions amidst geopolitical tensions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *