BOSTON (AP) — Elon Musk tweeted Sunday that Twitter will permanently ban any account impersonating someone else on the social media platform.
The platform’s new owner issued the warning after some celebrities changed their Twitter display names – not their account names – to tweet as “Elon Musk” in response to the billionaire’s decision to offer all comers verified accounts for 8 months, as he is also a large part of the workforce.
“Going forward, all Twitter handles that engage in impersonation without clearly stating ‘parody’ will be permanently suspended,” Musk wrote. While Twitter had previously warned of suspensions, now that it’s instituting “widespread scrutiny,” there will be no warning.
In fact, “any name change whatsoever” would force the temporary loss of a verified tick, the world’s richest man said.
Comedian Kathy Griffin had her account suspended on Sunday after changing her username to Musk. She told a Bloomberg reporter that she also used his profile photo.
“I’m guessing not ALL the content moderators got fired? Lol,” Griffin joked afterwards on Mastodon, an alternative social media platform she signed up for last week.
Actress Valerie Bertinelli had similarly appropriated Musk’s stage name — posting a series of tweets in support of Democratic candidates on Saturday before reverting to her real name. “All right. I had fun and I think I got my point across,” she tweeted afterwards.
Before the stunt, Bertinelli noted the original purpose of the blue verification tick. It was granted free of charge to people whose identities had been verified by Twitter staff; with journalists making up a large part of the recipients. “It simply meant that your identity was verified. Scammers would have a harder time impersonating you,” Bertinelli noted.
“That no longer applies. Good luck out there!” she added.
The verified $8 accounts are Musk’s way of democratizing the service, he claims. On Saturday, a Twitter update for iOS devices listed in Apple’s App Store said that users who sign up “now” for the new “Twitter Blue with verification” can get the blue tick next to their name “just like the celebrities, corporations and politicians already follow you.”
It said the service would be available in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK first. However, he was unavailable on Sunday and there was no indication of when he would go live. A Twitter employee, Esther Crawford, told The Associated Press that it’s “coming soon but hasn’t started yet”.
Twitter didn’t respond to an email Sunday asking for comment about the issue with verified accounts and Griffin’s suspension.
Musk later tweeted, “Twitter needs to become by far the most accurate source of information about the world. That is our mission.”
If the company were to withdraw blue checks from current verified users — something that didn’t happen — it could exacerbate disinformation on the platform during Tuesday’s midterm elections.
Like Griffin, some Twitter users have already begun migrating from the platform — Counter Social is another popular alternative — following layoffs that began Friday and reportedly affected about half of Twitter’s 7,500 employees. They fear that a breakdown in moderation and verification could lead to widespread disinformation about the internet, which has historically been the primary channel for reliable communication from government and other institutions.
Many companies have paused advertising on the platform over concerns that it could become more recalcitrant under Musk.
Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of security and integrity, attempted to allay such concerns in a tweet on Friday. He said the company’s frontline content moderation staff are the group least affected by the job cuts.
Musk tweeted late Friday that there was no choice but to cut jobs “if the company loses over $4 million a day.” He didn’t provide details on Twitter’s daily losses and said employees who lost their jobs were offered three months’ salary as severance pay.
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