Nov 1, 2022 - Podcasts

Finding the truth on Twitter could get much harder

Less than a week after Elon Musk officially became the owner of Twitter, there are reports that the company may start charging up to $20 a month for the subscription that would allow users to keep the blue verification checkmark that confirms world leaders, celebrities, journalists, local politicians and many others are who they say they are. Making verification a paid feature could open Twitter up to more mis- and disinformation.

  • Plus, salaries get more transparent in some states.
  • And, affirmative action is in peril at the Supreme Court.

Guest: Axios' Sara Fischer and Emily Peck, and The National Constitution Center's Jeffrey Rosen.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Erica Pandey, Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Fonda Mwangi and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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ERICA PANDEY: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Tuesday, November 1st.

I’m Erica Pandey, in for Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what we’re covering: salaries get more transparent in some states. Plus, affirmative action is in peril at the Supreme Court. But first: Why it could soon be harder to tell truth from fiction on Twitter. That’s today’s One Big Thing.

Why it could soon be harder to tell truth from fiction on Twitter

ERICA: Less than a week after Elon Musk officially became the owner of Twitter, we're starting to learn more about what might change under his leadership. One possibility is that Twitter will start charging up to $20 a month for the subscription that'll allow users to keep that blue verification checkmark. That confirms that world leaders, celebrities, journalists, local politicians, and many others are who they say they are. Making that a paid feature though could risk opening Twitter up to lots more mis and disinformation. Axios’ Sara Fischer got more on this.

So Sarah, do we know why Musk is even suggesting it?

SARA FISCHER: Erica sources tell Axios that Musk is interested in weaning Twitter off of its reliance on advertising and pushing it further into subscriptions. And the reason being is subscription revenue tends to be more reliable. It's something that users will pay on a recurrent basis, and it's something that users pay for instead of brands or advertisers. And so charging hyper users for their verified accounts could be a form of subscription revenue for Twitter.

And then the other thing to note is Twitter has tried to engage in subscription revenue. Last year, they launched Twitter Blue, which gives users access to further features. They've launched Super Follows, which allows users to pay to get additional tweets from their favorite Twitter follows. And they've launched tweet deck subscriptions but you know, the data that I've pulled has showed that that's not been very successful. And so I think Elon Musk is trying to figure out how do I inject some energy into Twitter's subscription business, and this is the way he's going to do it.

ERICA: What do you think the impact of charging for verification could be?

SARA: So last year, Twitter said that they had 360,000 people who were verified. You can imagine that's up a little bit higher, probably closer to 400,000 people that are verified on the platform today. And you have to remember, Erica, the vast majority of those are not people with a ton of money. You know, it's local fire departments, it's local municipalities, police departments, local officials, local politicians. It's global, it's people in small remote countries. They might not have the kind of cash to pay $240 a year possibly to stay verified. And so what will happen, I imagine, is that you'll have a huge drop off and the number of accounts that are verified, and as a result, that could spread a ton of disinformation. When people don't know who is the right version of a certain celebrity. Anyone could say anything pretending to be that celebrity. In fact, that's why Twitter introduced verification in 2009 because they were sued on behalf of somebody who said that their information, that their identity was being mimicked by an everyday user.

ERICA: Do we know if this verification change or any other changes could happen before the midterms and potentially affect the outcome there?

SARA: Well, reports have suggested that Elon Musk is trying to push engineers to get this done by November 7th, so it's probably not gonna get done in time for the midterms, but you can imagine that if there are changes, they would be well ahead of 2024. And then the other thing that Axios has reported on is that Elon Musk is pushing engineers to explore potentially bringing back Vine by the end of the year. You'll remember Vine was the six second video app that Twitter bought in 2016 and later shut down. And so I think Elon Musk has a lot of plans, but I don't think you're going to see a lot of these products come to fruition within the next week or two. It's probably gonna be within the next few months.

ERICA: Sarah Fischer is Axios’ media reporter. Thanks Sarah.

SARA: Thank you, Erica.

ERICA: And you can also hear Sara in this season of Axios’ How it Happened – hosted by me – on Elon Musk and Twitter.

We’re back in a moment with details of New York City’s new pay transparency law.


Salaries get more transparent in some states

ERICA: Welcome back to Axios today. I'm Erica Pandy in for Niala Boodhoo.

Starting today, employers in New York City have to disclose salary information and job postings as part of a new pay transparency law. This is happening beyond New York too. And it's changing the way companies talk about compensation and it's challenging gender and racial pick apps that have been around for a really long time. Axios’ Markets Correspondent Emily Peck has been covering this story and is here with the big picture.

So Emily, what does this new pay transparency law mean for people looking for a job? What are job ads gonna look like?

EMILY PEAK: So for people looking for a job, if it's located in New York City or in one of the handful of states that are also doing this, you'll see the normal job listing you'd normally see, and then you see a salary range. This job pays between $80,000 and $140,000 or something like that. You'll have a sense, at least for the top and bottom of what you could possibly make at this job.

ERICA: Why is that a big deal?

EMILY: Well, talking about pay has been taboo, and employers use that to their advantage, right? They offer you in a lot of cases, not all cases, the lowest amount that they can get away with. If candidates actually know the highest amount they can get away with, that's a big change. The balance of power shifts,

ERICA: How will this law be enforced?

EMILY: Basically companies are only required to post ranges in good faith. As long as the range was in good faith, employers aren't gonna be penalized. It's likely that the employers to run afoul of this law are the ones who don't post any salary ranges at all. And even those companies get kind of a pass for the first violation, they get a warning and if they don't post salary ranges after the warning, they can be fined up to $250,000.

ERICA: In your reporting who has historically benefited and lost from their not being pay transparency?

EMILY: The lack of pay transparency and a lot of other reasons typically have meant that women and people of color make less money. Sometimes that's because people use salary history when making salary offers. So you are underpaid at your last job, your new employer says, how much money are you making? And you tell them, and then you get a new offer based on that lower pay. So it kind of perpetuates in a cycle. There are, some women get penalized for asking for too much, whereas men might not get penalized for asking too much. There's all kinds of biases and inequities that show up in the pay process, and you know, adding transparency makes it a little more equitable.

ERICA: What can you tell us about any other states or cities across the US that are following suit?

EMILY: The big news really is in January 2023, when California's pay transparency law will go into effect. California's obviously another huge job market, so with California doing this and New York doing this, expect to see this happening all over the place.

ERICA: Emily Peck is Axios’ Markets Correspondent. Thanks, Emily.

EMILY: Thank you.

Affirmative action is in peril at the Supreme Court

ERICA: The Supreme Court yesterday heard arguments in two cases dealing with college admissions programs that consider race in order to encourage diversity. Now it looks as though the court could be ready to deem affirmative action unlawful. The National Constitution Centers’ Jeffrey Rosen explains.

Jeff, what do we need to know about what happened on Monday?

JEFFREY ROSEN: So this is the most important affirmative action case in a generation, and it now looks like the Supreme Court will indeed strike down affirmative action. And the six conservatives suggested that for them, the meaning of Brown v. Board of Education is the constitution has to be colorblind and it can never take race into account, except to compensate people for past discrimination.

The liberals really disagreed and said that educational diversity is a valid interest. There was a really fascinating point where Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson said the framers of the 14th Amendment tried to help people on the basis of race. How can you say that the original understanding requires colorblindness?

But Justice Thomas said, hey, I went to all black schools and I don't see any special value in integration, and I think the Constitution is colorblind. This case could have huge implications for the future of admissions. Universities will look for other ways of achieving diversity, especially socioeconomic status, but it's just gonna be a nuclear bomb in the way that colleges evaluate their applications and the court will decide by June and it could take an effect for the admission cycle of the class of 2028.

ERICA: What do we know? You mentioned a little bit, but what do we know about how colleges might respond if affirmative action is deemed illegal?

JEFFERY: The main thing that they'll do is put a lot of weight on the essays and basically ask people to describe their experiences overcoming adversity, and we'll try to use that as a proxy of weighing race, but they won't be allowed to do it explicitly. So the legal pressure will really be on them.

ERICA: Jeffrey Rosen is the president of the National Constitution Center and he hosts the weekly “We the People” podcast. Thanks for being with us.

JEFFERY: Thank you.

ERICA: That’s all we’ve got for you today! I’m Erica Pandey. Thanks for listening, stay safe, and Niala will be back with you here tomorrow morning.

NIALA BOODHOO: "The Revolution with Steve Kornacki” is MSNBC’s newest, original podcast. The six-part series recounts the origin story of partisan politics as we know it today – exploring the catalysts of the 1994 Republican take-over of Congress, including the influence of Newt Gingrich, that changed both political parties forever. Search for “The Revolution with Steve Kornacki” to follow and listen to the series.

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