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What the Tech: Twitter Blue is worse than a waste of money, it’s a waste of promise

Twitter has announced a new subscription service that provides extra features for the social networking site, but you’re unlikely to be impressed.

Back when Facebook was surfing the very crest of its wave of popularity, unconvincing viral posts would frequently appear in the assorted flotsam and jetsam claiming that you would soon have to pay to access the site; such hearsay was quickly snuffed out by the company, which was keen to reassure its customers that you would never have to pay for the service. As the maxim goes, if you’re not paying for a service, then you’re not the customer but rather the product, and that has rarely been quite as true as with Facebook, which has accrued billions through advertising and data thanks to a massive userbase that places just a bit too much trust in the platform.

But now, with the advent of Twitter Blue, a social media network isn’t just asking its users to place their trust in it, share their data, and be subjected to interminable advertising; they’re asking them to pay for that privilege.

What exactly does that privilege amount to? Well, for $3.49 CAD or $4.49 AUD (about £2.50 a month), as the service is currently only available in Australia and Canada, you’ll get folders for your bookmarks, an easier-to-read tweet-threading tool, and “Undo Tweet”. Note: despite the name, Undo Tweet actually just gives you an extra thirty-second window to delete or approve your tweet before you post it. Yep, that’s it.

It’s none of my business whether people really want to waste their money on such an anaemic offering, but the sad truth is that it marks another step away from the equality that sites like Twitter seemed to offer in the first place.

Despite the adverse effects we’ve seen from social media sites over recent years, it’s still an admirable idea that we can debate politicians or journalists, or simply chat directly with admired celebrities on a fairly free forum. But Twitter Blue exists not to give its members incredible and costly new features – let’s face it, these modest measures should be available to anyone who used the app – but it’s to cement a hierarchy that fosters elitism rather than the democratic free-for-all that we admired in the initial concept.

Whether it’s the now-common posts that disable reply tweets (especially to controversial matters that merit debate), the haphazardly-applied blue tick verification system, or with the very selective banning of accounts while racism is still rife on the platform, Twitter increasingly feels that open discussions between equals is no longer its core mission.

When there are thousands of genuine complaints of abuse and harassment on the platform, not to mention charges that it has helped foment a general decay in the quality of public discourse, a service which truly serves all its customers and not a select few, should address these concerns first and foremost rather than charging money for a basic software update.

Twitter Blue is another sign that the social network has lost its way, and there’s very little left to Like about it.

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