Apr 16 2024

Tweeting Transformation: Musk’s Twitter Makeover, Social Media Ripples and the Impact on OSINT a Year Later

What did the Musk shake-up actually mean for social media and OSINT


It has been approximately a year since Elon Musk finalised his purchase of Twitter and rebranded the social media platform as X. In December 2022 we explored how this purchase could affect the platform, would users flee to other alternatives such as Hive or Mastadon[1]? Or would X eventually become a bigger platform than Twitter ever was? Below we take a look at the changes that have been made to the platform since Musk’s takeover, how other social media platforms may have benefited from these changes, and how these changes have impacted our work here at NetWatch.


The Blue Tick was one of Twitter’s most famous features, a way of Twitter verifying that accounts with notable followings were real and not impersonators. Following Twitter’s transformation into X, a way of monetising this feature was implemented, with people being able to subscribe to “X Premium” in order to be graced with a blue checkmark on their account. Following this premium option, X introduced gold and grey checkmarks to distinguish between account types further, with gold checkmarks being awarded to official business organisations that had been verified, and grey checkmarks being available to accounts that represented governmental organisations.

The pricing of these premium subscriptions is broken down into three different tiers: Basic, Premium and Premium+[2]. Notably, Premium and Premium+ are the only rates that allow users to receive the iconic blue checkmark on their account. Please see below for the rates that are charged for these tiers:

  • Basic: $3/month or $32/year
  • Premium: $8/month or $84/year
  • Premium+ $16/month or $168/year

The early days of these verification process changes were plagued by fake accounts, with people making accounts under the name of famous people or businesses and then subscribing to X premium. As said subscriptions provided the account with the famous blue checkmark, a symbol that famously cemented accounts as real since its inception in 2009, most people would see this account and instantly assume the account did in fact represent whatever famous individual or organisation it had been named after. Notably, in November 2022, one account was created to impersonate Eli Lilly, a pharmaceutical company in the USA. A Tweet from this account stated that insulin would be free, leading to a 2.2% drop in the company’s stock price which had a knock-on effect with Novo Nordisk and Sanofi (two other companies that provide insulin) also losing value in their share price[3].

This example perfectly highlights why verification is important when it comes to OSINT research, for further information on how you can ensure you are carrying out research on the correct subject feel free to read our blog[4] on the importance of ensuring accounts are correctly attributed.

API changes

Notably, one of the first major changes to the technical side of the platform was its Application Programming Interface (API), with Twitter shutting down its free API in April 2023 and moving to a system of paid API tiers. The shutdown of their free service led to a plethora of developer tools no longer being functional, as well as websites that used the API to enable sharing content to and from Twitter, and services like Substack that used embedded Tweets. Moreover, this change wasn’t communicated to the public, leading to an era of confusion and requests to the platform that were destined to go unanswered due to the mass layoffs at Twitter, leaving the platform without enough manpower to meet the ever-growing demands of a frustrated community.

One example of a tool that were affected is “All My Tweets”, a powerful OSINT tool that allowed investigators to view user’s followers, likes and tweets in an easily searchable format that the platform itself didn’t allow. Unfortunately, this tool, along with many others shut down following the revoking of Twitter’s free API.

Thankfully despite these changes, our range of in-house tools were unaffected by the API shutdown and we were able to continue delivering value to our clients.


X’s turbulent launch did not go unnoticed by other social media developers, with Threads launching in July 2023. This was Zuckerberg’s attempt to encapsulate Twitter’s former success and become more popular than the newly rebranded X, utilising a similar model to Twitter the app allowed users to share posts and interact through replies, reposts and likes. For further information on Threads and it’s launch, please see our blog post[5] where we analyse the platform and its implications for OSINT investigations.

Another platform that gained some notoriety following the Twitter rebrand was Bluesky. Initially launched in February 2023, the app was designed as a decentralised answer to X and started off with an invitation-only beta, but would eventually go public in February 2024, noting a 1000% increase in its user volume between September 2023 and February 2024. Notably, the platform functions extremely like the Twitter we all knew prior to Musk’s acquisition, allowing users to create profiles, follow one another and share posts in which people could reply, like and repost.

Whilst neither Threads nor Bluesky can boast the vast user volume that X possesses, it is worth highlighting that both userbases have been increasing, with X beginning to see a decrease in their monthly active users.

Social Media PlatformUser Volume September 2023User Volume February 2024
X (formerly Twitter)550,000,000528,300,000


The takeover of Twitter and rebranding to X by Elon Musk, was the biggest news in social media for years. From new paid verification,to API changes to competitors trying to fill the gap – the impact was felt far and wide. Luckily the impact on our analysts ability to investigate claims, and the software we developed and employ to do the same has been minimal. However, with the rise in popularity of alternatives like Bluesky it remains to be seen what Musk might do next! Remember to follow our pages for more content like this on the changing face of OSINT and social media.

[1] https://www.netwatchglobal.com/blogs/the-fall-of-twitter/

[2] https://help.twitter.com/en/using-x/x-premium

[3] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/imposter-twitter-tanks-stocks-insulin-b2223418.html

[4] https://www.netwatchglobal.com/blogs/the-importance-of-accurate-social-media-attribution/

[5] https://www.netwatchglobal.com/blogs/unravelling-threads/

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