(CNN) — After facing a wave of criticism over his plan to charge Twitter users $19.99 a month to verify or maintain their accounts, Elon Musk has a counteroffer: $8, perhaps?
Under Musk, Twitter is working to update its subscription service, known as “Twitter Blue” and currently costs $4.99 a month, to include verification, as CNN previously reported.
According to internal Twitter planning documents obtained by CNN, Twitter could remove the coveted blue ticks from currently verified users if they don’t start paying the higher price of $19.99 within the next 90 days.
The news quickly sparked outrage and disbelief among some longtime Twitter users, including author Stephen King, who has nearly seven million followers on the platform.
“$20 a month to keep my double blue tick?” chirped this Monday, followed by profanity. “They should pay me. If it is implemented, I will go like Enron.” Later, in response, King added: “[i] It’s not about money, it’s about principles.”
$20 a month to keep my blue check? Fuck it, they should pay me. If it gets started, I’m gone like Enron.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) October 31, 2022
Elon Musk responded to King early Tuesday with the most explicit acknowledgment yet of the account verification fee proposal. “[N]We have to pay the bills somehow! Twitter can’t rely entirely on advertisers,” he said. “How about $8?”
We have to pay the bills somehow! Twitter cannot rely entirely on advertisers. How about $8?
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 1, 2022
The trade reflects the weakness of some of Musk’s initial plans for Twitter and also the urgency he has to boost revenue and profits for a company that has lost money for much of its history. Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion, a figure he admitted was “obviously” above the company’s value. He also added a significant amount of debt financing to afford the business.
Since the takeover of the platform was completed last week, the billionaire has quickly shaken up Twitter, including disbanding the board and firing its top executives.
In tweets over the weekend, Elon Musk asked his followers about bringing back Vine, Twitter’s defunct short-form video service, and responded “absolutely” to users’ suggestion that they reconsider streaming restrictions. It’s unclear how committed Musk is to implementing any or all of these changes.
“The entire verification process is currently being rebuilt,” Musk said on Twitter on Sunday.
Even before the sales contract was finalized, Musk suggested the possibility of linking verification to a paid subscription service. In April, Musk said paid Twitter subscribers “should get an authentication checkmark.”
IN another tweethe said: “Cost should probably be ~$2/month, but you pay 12 months up front and the account doesn’t get a tick for 60 days (watch out for CC reversals) and you get suspended without refund if used for fraud/spam.”
While the blue tick has become a status symbol among users, it’s also designed to ensure that people can tell which accounts are authentic and which aren’t, especially for celebrities, brands and other influencers.
If Musk were to create a paid barrier to verification, there are concerns that it could make it harder to tell whether a famous name is a bot or not.