After Twitter rolled out its new paid verification system, chaos quickly ensued.
Fake verified accounts flooded Twitter after the platform launched last week a revamped Twitter Blue subscription service that gives users the coveted blue check mark for $8 a month.
Twitter accounts with check marks impersonated consumer brands Eli Lilly, PepsiCo and Nintendo and public figures including Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, President Joe Biden and basketball player LeBron James.
The verified account posing as the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly tweeted a spoof message saying insulin was now free. Meanwhile, the blue-checked account pretending to be Lake tweeted a fake concession announcement, even though the election remains the last undecided race for governor in the country.
Twitter suspended many of the accounts impersonating people and brands.
The blue verified badge originally signaled that an account of public interest was authentic after users provided information proving their identity. New Twitter owner Elon Musk, however, had criticized the previous verification process, comparing it to a medieval feudal system.
The new Twitter Blue was the platform’s first big product launch under Musk, who bought the company late last month. In an email to employees last week, Musk said the company needs to make roughly half of its revenue through subscriptions, according to the Associated Press.
“Without significant subscription revenue, there is a good chance Twitter will not survive the upcoming economic downturn,” Musk said.
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The fake Eli Lilly insulin tweet debacle
On Thursday afternoon, a fake Eli Lilly account that bought verification through the revamped Twitter Blue tweeted: “We are excited to announce that insulin is free now.”
The tweet stayed up for hours, and the account has since lost its blue badge and gone private. The company’s stock fell 4.45% Friday after the fake tweet.
“We apologize to those who have been served a misleading message from a fake Lilly account,” the company tweeted Thursday. “Our official Twitter account is @LillyPad.”
Eli Lilly reportedly paused all advertising on Twitter, a move that could cost the social media platform millions, The Washington Post reported.
Eli Lilly did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Meanwhile, other blue-checked parody accounts spread on the platform. One parody account posing as banana producer Chiquita tweeted, “We’ve just overthrown the government of Brazil.”
An account spoofing Tesla, Musk’s automotive company, tweeted, “BREAKING: A second Tesla has hit the World Trade Center,” and another account impersonating video game giant Nintendo tweeted a picture of its famous character Mario lifting his middle finger.
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Twitter combats parody accounts
As Twitter addresses the issue of verified impersonators, the company said on its website that accounts created on or after Nov. 9 “will be unable to subscribe to Twitter Blue at this time.”
The company also briefly locked users from changing their display names last week. Musk has previously said any name change “at all will cause temporary loss of verified checkmark.”
Musk said Thursday “accounts engaged in parody must include ‘parody’ in their name, not just in bio.”
“To be more precise, accounts doing parody impersonations,” Musk tweeted, adding the platform will add a “parody” subscript. “Basically, tricking people is not ok.”
Despite the proliferation of verified fake accounts, Musk said Friday the subscription service “needs some tweaks, but overall (is) proceeding well” when a user asked how many Twitter Blue subscriptions the company had sold.
The issue of verified parody accounts is the latest chapter in Musk’s headline-grabbing Twitter takeover. Last week, Musk abruptly ended the company’s remote work policy in an email to employees, warning staff staff to prepare for “difficult times ahead,” according to reports. The company laid off roughly half of its workforce just days before Musk announced the remote-work ban.
Some of the company’s top privacy and security executives reportedly resigned last week, including Twitter’s Chief Information Security Officer Lea Kissner, who tweeted Thursday that “I’ve made the hard decision to leave Twitter.”
The FTC said in a statement Thursday that it is “tracking recent developments at Twitter with deep concern,” according to the Associated Press.
Story Credit: usatoday.com