Former top cybersecurity official Chris Krebs on Sunday said the paid subscription plan for a verification mark on Twitter will “create a very chaotic environment” because it would open the information space to foreign actors, election deniers and other potentially malign influencers.
Krebs told moderator Margaret Brennan on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that being able to buy the “blue tick” for $8 a month goes against a long-standing policy of verifying authentic accounts.
“To have such a dramatic shift in that marker of trust [and] now you can buy it,” Krebs said. “It opens the information space to a broader community of influencers, clout chasers, election denialists and [foreign actors]. We’ve seen reports lately that Russia, China and Iran are back at their old tricks, and it is going to create a very chaotic environment.”
Krebs served as the first director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency from November 2018 to November 2020, when he was fired by former President Trump after contesting his false claims about the 2020 election.
Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, launched the updated subscription service on Saturday, charging $7.99 for a verification mark as well as other features and benefits for Twitter Blue members, including seeing less advertisements.
The new subscription service has drawn widespread concern over how it could increase disinformation just days ahead of Election Day for the 2022 midterms.
There are also concerns about legitimate users who are unwilling to pay for the service who could be forced to compete against fake accounts impersonating them.
Musk, who at first floated the idea of a $20 per month charge for the verification mark, has said he overpaid when he purchased Twitter last month, and that the rollout of the new service is integral to paying the bills.
Twitter’s new owner has implemented a number of changes, including firing about half the workforce. He has also discussed easing up on content moderation, though has assured advertisers Twitter will not become a “free-for-all hellscape.”
Krebs on Sunday said there are “two Elons,” the one who is making public statements that can be seen as “trolling” and the businessman who is talking to interest groups, advertisers and other players behind the scenes.
“If you look at the platform itself right now, not a whole lot has changed,” he said.
“The concern though, is what happens tomorrow, when you can buy the blue tick.”
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