BOSTON (AP) — Elon Musk tweeted 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 screen names – not their account names – and tweeted as ‘Elon Musk’ in response to the billionaire’s decision to offer verified accounts for $8 a month to all participants offers while at the same time a large part of the workforce.
“Going forward, any Twitter handle that engages in impersonation without clearly specifying ‘parody’ will be permanently suspended,” Musk wrote. While Twitter previously issued warnings before suspensions, there will be no warning now that it’s rolling out “widespread verification.”
In fact, “any name change at all” would force the temporary loss of a verified tick, the world’s richest man said.
Comedian Kathy Griffin suspended her account on Sunday after she changed her screen name to Musk. She told a Bloomberg reporter that she also used his profile picture.
“I don’t think ALL the content moderators were let go? Lol,” Griffin joked afterwards on Mastodon, an alternative social media platform where she set up an account last week.
Actor Valerie Bertinelli similarly appropriated Musk’s screen name — posting a series of tweets in support of Democratic candidates on Saturday before switching back to her real name. “Okey dokey. I had fun and I think I made my point,” she tweeted afterwards.
Before the stunt, Bertinelli noted the original purpose of the blue verification check mark. It was granted free of charge to people whose identity Twitter employees confirmed; with journalists accounting for a large proportion of the recipients. “It simply meant your identity was verified. Scammers will have a harder time impersonating you,” Bertinelli noted.
“It no longer applies. Good luck out there!” she added.
The $8 verified 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 users who “sign up now” for the new “Twitter Blue with Verification” can get the blue check next to their names “just like the celebrities , companies and politicians you already follow.”
It said the service would 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 go live. A 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 verified account issue and Griffin’s suspension.
Musk later tweeted, “Twitter must become by far the most accurate source of information about the world. This is our mission.”
If the company were to strip current verified users of blue checks — something it hasn’t — it could exacerbate disinformation on the platform during Tuesday’s midterm elections.
Like Griffin, some Twitter users have already begun migrating off the platform — Counter Social is another popular alternative — after layoffs that began Friday reportedly affected about half of Twitter’s 7,500 employees. They fear that a breakdown in moderation and verification could create a disinformation free-for-all on what has been the Internet’s main channel for reliable communications from public agencies and other institutions.
Many companies have paused advertising on the platform out of concern that it could become more turbulent under Musk.
Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of security and integrity, tried to allay such concerns in a tweet on Friday. He said the company’s front-line content moderation staff were the group least affected by the job cuts.
Musk tweeted late Friday that there was no choice but to cut jobs “when the company is losing over $4 million a day.” He did not provide details on the daily losses at Twitter and said employees who lost their jobs were offered three months’ salary as severance pay.
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