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March 29, 2023

Yesterday, I solicited your views on Elon Musk’s plans to only grant identity-verifying blue ticks to fee-paying Twitter users and to only allow those users’ tweets into the For You stream that everyone sees by default (scroll down for an update on that last bit). And I’m glad I did—here’s a selection of the responses I received.

P.d.H. favors Twitter’s subscription drive: 

“For me, subscription is the way to go. It gets better content (Netflix), fewer ads, and a broadly better internet for everyone. But I’m a Web3 guy; the way ahead is a pay button on browsers and instead of paying with our data, we pay with cold, hard cash.”

E.F.S. reckons Twitter Blue is a bargain service that the masses will snap up:

“Given that it’s an $8 dollar a month subscription, cheaper than Netflix and similar pricing to most other subscription-based services, this is hardly out of reach for the majority of people who post on Twitter…Remember, if everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority. Which means as soon as most people get their blue ticks, this so-called ‘Shadowbanning’ is a moot point, as everyone will have the same level of promotion, Ceteris Paribus.”

I’ll let L.P. point out one of the big issues with that:

“The $8/month subscription is extremely expensive in poorer countries—where sometimes Twitter has the biggest impact. As a reference, YouTube premium in Argentina is ARS 389/month, equivalent to ONE USD (in the ‘blue’ market, the only one where we can buy and sell currency).”

A.M., meanwhile, isn’t convinced by Musk’s argument that the fee will provide much of a barrier to A.I.-powered bot armies:

I think $8 million per month is a bargain for a person, organization, PAC, or government who wants to flood the system with a million bots. This newest move by Musk will probably be the end of Twitter, as it will be all bots soon enough.”

A.H. concurs: 

“The checkmark used to mean that an account was verified, which increased trust on the platform. Now it means that the account pays money. These changes will continue to erode trust on the platform and make it less useful for users and advertisers, as disinformation crowds out legitimate accounts.”

But B.W. suggests I reconsider my generational aversion to paying for exposure:

“Knowing it is really you is helpful in this noisy world. Totally get where you are coming from, ‘not selling out’, reminds me of the same issue when the Rolling Stones agreed to a Coke sponsorship back in the day. They survived it… :-).”

Thanks for sending me down a rabbit hole in which I discovered the Stones also once made a Rice Krispies commercial! And I should note that—yet again proving he could benefit from the services of communications professionals—Elon Musk yesterday issued a doozy of a next-day tweet: “Forgot to mention that accounts you follow directly will also be in For You, since you have explicitly asked for them.” If that was always the intention then yes, it would have been worth mentioning earlier.

See you all tomorrow—but in the meantime, I strongly recommend you read Jeremy Kahn’s coverage of Musk, Steve Wozniak, and a host of experts calling for a six-month moratorium on the training of more powerful, next-gen A.I. models. Good luck with that…

David Meyer

Data Sheet’s daily news section was written and curated by Andrea Guzman. 




The DEA’s hunt for user data. The Drug Enforcement Administration has paid informants inside U.S. companies for access to user data instead of obtaining search warrants. Now, a pair of lawmakers are asking the Department of Justice to tighten policies around confidential human sources to limit this practice. In a letter from Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Cynthia M. Lummis (R-Wyo.), the lawmakers write, “The DOJ must explicitly prohibit these practices to ensure that all of its components, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the U.S. Marshals Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) do not use confidential sources to avoid using appropriate legal processes to obtain Americans’ data."

Twitter boosts some celebrities’ accounts. Twitter is giving greater visibility to some users, including LeBron James, Marc Andreessen, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and Elon Musk, Platformer reports. The preferential treatment has been granted to 35 people, some famous and some not, for months. It was initially enacted to see if changes to recommendation algorithms would affect how users interact with the accounts of influential people. The revelation of this practice comes after Musk reportedly fired an engineer earlier this year for explaining why his posts attracted fewer viewers than the number of followers he had. 

Amazon wants fewer returns. Amazon is rolling out a warning label on "frequently returned" products to reduce return volume, The Information reports. The label comes after the company has laid off more than 27,000 workers since November 2022 and tries to lower its operational costs. Amazon released another tag earlier in March showing a product's approximation of units sold.


4.25 million

—The estimated number of monthly active users on Lemon8, a ByteDance-owned rival to Instagram. This week Lemon8 broke into the top 10 apps on the U.S. App Store.


Microsoft’s CEO said he ‘never expected’ to land the top job—this is his best piece of career advice, by Eleanor Pringle

Lyft’s new CEO says its competition isn’t just Uber, it’s a ‘battle against staying at home’, by Prarthana Prakash

We asked Google’s A.I. chatbot ‘Bard’ basic SAT questions and it would flunk a real exam, by Eleanor Pringle

Google, Meta, Salesforce, and more get tough on employee evaluations. Here’s how they’re overhauling performance reviews, by Paige McGlauflin

Meta’s latest step in its ‘Year of Efficiency’: More reviews and lower bonuses, by Chris Morris



Buy now, pay later. Apple is making it easier to break payments into installments by offering a buy-now, pay-later service that works by integrating Apple Pay with a user’s debit card and bank account. Users won’t be charged flat or percentage late fees, but missed payments will eventually result in the consumer losing access to the service. Apple’s buy-now, pay-later product offers fraud and consumer protections through Mastercard’s existing pay-by-installment model, and will charge merchants fees that “are competitive to other installment products in the market,” Mastercard spokesperson Raul Lopez told the Associated Press. The product will be available this spring and will begin reporting to credit bureaus in the fall.

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