Adult Performers, Trump Supporters and Parodies: Who Is Paying for Twitter?Skip to Comments
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Adult Performers, Trump Supporters and Parodies: Who Is Paying for Twitter?

When Elon Musk bought Twitter last month, he made Twitter Blue, an existing subscription service, the backbone of his strategy to increase revenue. The subscription gives users access to some extra features for $8 per month, including a blue check mark that was previously reserved for notable people.

The plan had attracted about 140,000 users as of Nov. 15, according to data from Travis Brown, a software developer in Berlin who has studied extremism on Twitter. But it also spurred spoof accounts, rattled advertisers and emboldened far-right influencers. Twitter has halted the program over issues with impersonation.

Here is who is paying for Twitter.

This chart shows many of the accounts that have registered for Twitter Blue according to when they first registered for Twitter ↔︎ and the number of followers ↕︎ they have. It captures Twitter’s breakout success in 2009 as well as registrations since Mr. Musk’s takeover.

While most subscribers have few followers and little influence, some have an audience of a million or more, including Mika Salamanca, a YouTube creator; Alwatan News 24, an Arabic news site; and several adult film stars.

Many far-right influencers also bought subscriptions, frustrating Mr. Musk’s critics who said the Twitter Blue check mark added legitimacy to controversial figures.

Libs of TikTok, an account that has shared transphobic content, and catturd2, an anonymous account that has shared misinformation about elections, appeared to revel in the attention that their check marks created.

Yet the typical Twitter Blue subscriber has far fewer followers — about 560.

Expanding the check marks rattled advertisers after some verified parody accounts went viral, including a tweet from a spoof pharmaceutical account that claimed it would make insulin free. Some brands pulled their ads.

Other spoof accounts were banned as Twitter sought to contain the damage. The spoof accounts included those that claimed to be the basketball star Kevin Durant and Senator Ted Cruz.

In recent years, Mr. Musk’s own actions have spurred Twitter registrations, such as when his offer to buy the site was accepted in late April and when the deal closed in late October. Those moments have resulted in many new Twitter Blue subscriptions, too. Twitter did not respond to requests for comment.

More than 300 accounts have been suspended after subscribing for Twitter Blue — many of them new accounts that signed up for Twitter after Mr. Musk announced his takeover plans — suggesting Twitter is still taking action against users that may violate its policies.

Twitter Blue is one of several plans that Mr. Musk, who says advertising alone can’t sustain Twitter, has suggested to increase revenue — like paying a fee to send a direct message to celebrities.

But to generate enough revenue from Twitter Blue to pay just the $1 billion in interest owed on Twitter’s debt each year, Mr. Musk would need to add about 10 million more paying customers.