Turns out that Twitter CEO Elon Musk's blue check rollback might be more than just messy. According to some legal experts, it might actually end up getting the billionaire into regulatory trouble with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
To recap: late last week, Mr. Tweet finally rolled back the company's legacy verification system, supposedly leaving the platform's coveted blue verification checks to Twitter Blue subscribers. Some non-subscribing Twitter users, however — mostly celebrities like Stephen King and Lebron James, in addition to some other popular accounts — were shocked to discover when they logged on that their blue check was somehow still there, even though they weren't coughing up $8 a month to keep it. Musk later admitted to paying for those checks himself, explaining them away as gifts.
But as John Davisson, the senior counsel and director of litigation at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told Quartz, there's a chance that Musk's "gifting" can be counted as deceptive marketing — a big no-no in the eyes of the federal law and, of course, the regulating body that is the FTC.
"Star power is a valuable marketing tool, and Twitter clearly knows that — how else to explain the decision to restore blue checkmarks only to the most popular accounts?" Davisson explained to Quartz in an email. "But if a celebrity hasn’t actually subscribed to Twitter Blue, it's [a] materially misleading statement to claim they have."
Davisson's comment does make a lot of sense. After all, over on Instagram and TikTok, celebrities and influencers are legally obligated to disclose if and when a company is paying them for promotions (hence the hashtag-ad of it all.) Twitter, another social media platform, should surely operate the same way.
Of course, it's a bit of a different situation, considering that said influencers — some of whom, in a very gross turn, were dead celebrities — were influencing without their knowledge or consent, but the logic that Twitter would be in the wrong for lack of disclosure on its part still holds.
To make the odds even worse for Twitter, the company, as Quartz notes, has run into trouble with the FTC before. Upon his purchase of the platform, Musk inherited two (2) FTC consent decrees. And as we all know, three strikes generally means you're out.
READ MORE: Elon Musk is courting fresh FTC scrutiny with his latest Twitter fiasco [Quartz]
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