Elon Musk tweeted on Sunday that Twitter will permanently suspend any account on the social media platform that impersonates another.
The platform’s new owner issued the warning after some celebrities changed their Twitter display names – not their account names – and tweeted as “Elon Musk” in response to the billionaire’s decision to offer verified accounts to all comers in 8 months as he simultaneously laid off a large workforce .
“Going forward, any Twitter that engages in impersonation without clearly specifying ‘parody’ will be permanently suspended,” Musk wrote. While Twitter used to issue suspension warnings, now that it’s rolling out “extended verification, there will be no warning.”
In fact, “any name change” would force a temporary loss of the verified tick, the world’s richest man said.
Comedian Kathy Griffin had her account suspended on Sunday after she changed her name to Musk. She told a Bloomberg reporter that she also used his profile picture.
“I guess not ALL the content moderators got fired? Lol,” Griffin joked afterwards on Mastodon, the alternative social media platform where she set up an account last week.
Actress Valerie Bertinelli similarly appropriated Musk’s name, posting a series of tweets in support of the Democratic candidate on Saturday before reverting to her real name. “Okay. I had fun and I think I said it,” she tweeted afterward.
Before the stunt, Bertinelli noticed the original purpose of the blue verification mark. It was given free to people whose identity was verified by Twitter staff; a large part of the beneficiaries are journalists. “It meant your identity was verified. It would be harder for fraudsters to impersonate you,” Bertinelli noted.
“That doesn’t apply anymore. Good luck out there!” she added.
The $8 verified accounts are Musk’s way of democratizing the service, he says. On Saturday, a Twitter update for iOS devices listed in Apple’s App Store said users who “sign up now” for the new “Twitter Blue with Verification” can get a blue check next to their names “as well as celebrities, companies and politicians, which I already follow.”
It said the service will first be available in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK. However, it was not available on Sunday and there was no indication when it would be launched. Twitter employee Esther Crawford told The Associated Press that it’s coming “soon, but it hasn’t launched yet.”
Twitter did not respond Sunday to an email seeking comment on the issue with verified accounts and Griffin’s suspension.
Musk later tweeted: “Twitter must become by far the most accurate source of information about the world. That’s our mission.”
If the company stripped current verified users of blue checks — which it hasn’t — it could exacerbate misinformation on the platform during Tuesday’s midterm elections.
Like Griffin, some Twitter users have already begun migrating away 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 failure of moderation and verification could create a disinformation free-for-all on what has been the Internet’s main conduit for reliable communications from public agencies and other institutions.
Many companies have suspended advertising on the platform amid fears it could become more unruly under Musk.
Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of security and integrity, sought to allay those concerns in a tweet on Friday. He said the company’s frontline content moderators are the group least affected by job cuts.
Musk tweeted late Friday that he had no choice but to cut jobs “when the company is losing over $4 million a day.” He did not give details of the daily losses on Twitter and said that employees who lost their jobs had been offered three months’ salary as severance pay.
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