Elon Musk has postponed the relaunch of his flagship subscription service, Twitter Blue, in the latest sign of the challenges the billionaire is facing as he attempts to overhaul the social media platform.
The billionaire entrepreneur, who bought Twitter for $44bn last month, said in a tweet on Monday evening that he was “holding off” from launching the product again until there was a “high confidence of stopping impersonation”.
Musk had planned to restart Twitter Blue on November 29 following its botched rollout earlier this month, which saw its “blue tick” feature abused by impersonators on the platform.
Musk said on Twitter on Monday that the subscription service would “probably use different color check for organizations than individuals”.
It is the latest development in a tumultuous few weeks for Twitter under Musk’s helm, during which he has axed half the company’s workforce and prompted the departure of hundreds more last week after urging them to commit formally to “hardcore” work conditions or take three months’ severance pay.
The botched Twitter Blue rollout has exacerbated growing concerns among brands about whether the platform is a safe place to advertise or post, given Musk’s previous pledges to relax content moderation rules and his move on Sunday to reinstate Donald Trump’s Twitter account.
Trump was banned for life on the platform soon after a mob of his supporters stormed the US Capitol on January 6 last year.
Musk identified the launch of the subscription service, which enables paid users to access additional features including a blue tick, as a priority when he took over Twitter. He has pitched Twitter Blue as a way of boosting revenue by charging users $7.99 a month for exclusive benefits.
Paying users will be given a “blue tick” — at present reserved for verified companies, politicians, celebrities and journalists — as well as other benefits including the ability to edit tweets and filter notifications.
But Twitter Blue has been plagued with difficulties, with the first iteration withdrawn just days after its launch after users abused the system to impersonate high-profile individuals and brands.
This included a fake Eli Lilly account that said the drugmaker was giving away free insulin. Another user posted a tweet from an account posing as Lockheed Martin that claimed the company was halting weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, Israel and the US pending an investigation into their human rights records.
In a move to reassure advertisers and high-profile users, Musk previously said he was “punting” the relaunch of the service to November 29 “to make sure it is rock solid”.
Even before the botched rollout, high-profile brands, including General Motors, Carlsberg and General Mills, had paused advertising spending with Twitter over “brand safety” concerns.
Twitter has also suffered an exodus of top executives over the past two weeks, adding to concerns from regulators about its data security and compliance with privacy rules.