Twitter has launched a subscription service allowing users to buy blue-tick verification for a monthly fee of 7.99 US dollars (£7) in a major change under its new owner, Elon Musk.
The system was designed to help users identify authentic and influential users on the platform, including government figures, sports stars, entertainment figures, journalists and major brands and organisations.
But in an update to Apple iOS devices on Saturday, the social media company said any users who “sign up now” to its premium “Twitter Blue” service for 7.99 US dollars a month will get a blue tick.
Available in the UK, as well as the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the update said the service will provide: “Power to the people: Your account will get a blue checkmark, just like the celebrities, companies, and politicians you already follow.”
Other features promised to be “coming soon” include half the number of adverts, the ability to post longer videos and priority ranking for content posted on the platform.
Musk appears to be looking to diversify Twitter’s revenue streams and seeking to drastically reduce costs at the company after completing his 44 billion dollar (£39 billion) takeover of the platform last week.
The firm began widespread staff cuts around the world on Friday, with suggestions as many as half of its more than 7,500 staff could be axed.
Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey took to the platform on Saturday to apologise for growing the company too quickly.
He said: “I own the responsibility for why everyone is in this situation: I grew the company size too quickly. I apologize for that.
“I am grateful for, and love, everyone who has ever worked on Twitter. I don’t expect that to be mutual in this moment…or ever… and I understand.”
It comes as Twitter staff who face losing their jobs in the UK were given three days to nominate a representative for a formal consultation about their employment.
Workers in the UK have been told the company plans to inform and consult employee representatives ahead of potential redundancies, as required by employment law.
An email sent to staff from Twitter’s HR department on Saturday said they had until 9am on Tuesday to nominate any current employee.
A maximum of 10 representatives can be nominated, with an election to be held if more than 10 nominations are received, according to the email.
Representatives will be required to attend consultation meetings and help communicate between the firm and affected employees.
But Mike Clancy, general secretary of the Prospect union, which represents thousands of technology workers including Twitter staff, described the process as “a complete sham”.
He said membership among Twitter workers has been “growing rather rapidly” since new owner Elon Musk announced job cuts.
Clancy described the situation as the “digital P&O” – in reference to the shipping company, which was widely condemned after it sacked nearly 800 crew members without notice in March and replaced them with cheaper agency workers.
Musk said on Friday evening that Twitter employees who lost their jobs have been offered a three-month pay-off, with the company losing more than 4 million US dollars (£3.5 million) a day.
Its head of safety later said jobs cuts have affected about 15% of the trust and safety department, as opposed to approximately 50% of cuts company-wide.
Prospect has written to business secretary Grant Shapps urging him to intervene in a letter which said: “It is totally unacceptable that anyone should be treated in such a manner.
“I hope that you will agree with me that the Government must make it clear to Twitter’s new owners a digital P&O would not be acceptable and that no-one is above the law in the UK, including big tech barons.”
Simon Deakin, a professor of Law at the University of Cambridge, said if 100 or more employees are sacked within a period of 90 days, the Business Secretary must be notified 45 days before the first dismissal.
Where there are more than 20 but fewer than 100 potential losses, the period is 30 days.
Staff have been told that everyone received an email by 9am PST (4pm GMT) on Friday, with those who are affected by the cuts set to receive the message on their personal email address rather than the one associated with their work.
Some have since taken to Twitter to confirm they are leaving the company, with some revealing they have been logged out of their work laptops and internal messaging systems.
Twitter employee Simon Balmain told Sky News: “Late last night we all received an email saying there is going to be a large reduction in headcount and the email stated that if we would be laid off, it would go to our personal email and if not, to our work email.
“And it was about an hour after that, this is in the early hours of the morning UK, like 2am, that I noticed my work laptop was remotely wiped and my email access and Slack access were both revoked.
“And then I got in touch with a few colleagues, and it seemed a lot of people were seeing the same thing.”
A Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) spokesperson said: “We are watching what is happening at Twitter with interest.
“While we cannot comment on the individual cases, we expect companies to treat their employees fairly and our thoughts are with those who have lost their jobs.
“There are clear rules companies must follow when making large numbers of redundancies which includes consulting with staff and notifying the Redundancy Payments Service.”