One curious question that crops up in Twitter CEO Elon Musk’s decision to charge $8 a month to earn or continue to have the much-coveted blue check or tick is how heads of state and other top government functionaries would pay that sum.
According to Statista, in 2020, “189 countries were represented through an official presence on Twitter, either by personal or institutional accounts run by heads of state and government and foreign ministers.”
If Musk’s eight-dollar policy is uniformly enforced, all heads of state as well as government functionaries who already have blue ticks will have to pay that subscription if they want to remain “authentic.” That will include heavy hitters such as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose personal handle has 84 million followers and official prime minister’s office has 51.3 million followers. Other big presence among heads of state is President Joe Biden who as POTUS has 26.9 million and personally has 36.2 million, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, 19.5 million, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo, 18.8 million and Pope Francis, 18.9 million.
It is assumed that all these names and others who tweet in their official capacities from their countries and have been authenticated will have to pay. It is not clear how Twitter is going ensure that their payments come regularly and, in case of default, their accounts face some jeopardy. Typically, governments are not known to be expeditious in clearing their bills even if it is just $96 a year.
It is not clear whether Musk himself will have to pay a subscription for his authentication on top of the $44 billion that he has already paid. It is reasonable to think that he can afford about $100 a year but whether he would pay is a separate question.
Of course, all heads of state, including those who run bankrupt economies, can personally afford to pay. For instance, the Indian prime minister’s base salary is said to be 160,000 rupees a month which at the current rupee-dollar exchange rate works out to be about $1950 a month, enough for him to be able to pay $96 a year. In his particular case, millions of his followers in India and around the world would line up pay on his behalf if he desired.
Attached to the question of how heads of state and other top government functionaries would pay is whether they would use official credit/debit cards or personal ones. Of course, most of these names will have lackeys do such work but in the end the money has to come from somewhere, either from the exchequer of the countries they head or from their own pocket.
Also, interesting to watch would be how secure their credit or debit card data would be and whether Twitter under Musk will ensure that such data is not hacked and accessed. It does not matter who actually pays on behalf of these handles but the method of payment will have some sensitivity attached to it.
Musk has not yet announced what the penalty would be in the event of a payment not going through. For the sake of argument, consider that President Joe Biden’s payment gets declined for whatever reason. Who is going to ensure that a recovery is made? Who is going to call him to get the subscription or threaten to take his blue tick away?
Beyond heads of state, there are so many Twitter giants among the world of music, cinema and elsewhere with massive followings running into hundreds of million and who too have blue ticks to their names. All of them will be required to pay if they want to retain that silly exalted status.
Before Musk decided to charge for the blue tick, some of those used to subtly and not-subtly flaunt it. Now that every Tom, Ramesh and Sheila can buy it, what is the snob value of it? Perhaps it would be more fun not to pay for a blue tick and still have tens of millions of followers just to spite Musk.