A wave of Twitter users began impersonating government officials and major corporations after Elon Musk introduced a new scheme for verifying users on the platform.
The social media platform is reconsidering which users receive the blue checkmark icon next to their names. Before Musk acquired the company, the symbol indicated profiles belonging to celebrities, official government agencies, members of the media, and other “authentic accounts of public interest,” according to a help page published by Twitter.
The world’s richest man settled upon granting blue checkmarks to any user who enrolls in a $7.99 per month subscription plan, while the company started adding the word “official” under accounts of “public interest” verified before Musk assumed ownership, an idea that he had originally nixed after a number of high-profile users expressed disagreement with the move.
Some users, however, immediately began impersonating other accounts by changing their username and profile picture to match well-known organizations or individuals while making their handle a slight deviation from those belonging to the actual accounts, meaning that the profiles appeared to be authentic upon first glance. One user mimicked Nintendo of America under the handle “nIntendoofus” and posted a picture of Mario holding up the middle finger, while another user impersonated former President George W. Bush under the handle “GeorgeWBushs” and tweeted that he misses “killing Iraqis.”
Another user pretending to be LeBron James claimed that the basketball star was requesting a trade away from the Los Angeles Lakers, while an account impersonating former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani made provocative remarks about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Twitter appeared to suspend many of the fake accounts, while Musk warned users that profiles intending to satirize public figures must now include the word “parody” in their username and bio. The multibillionare had already prohibited users from impersonating others, permanently banning comedian Kathy Griffin for pretending to be Musk himself.
“Going forward, any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying ‘parody’ will be permanently suspended,” Musk cautioned earlier this week. “Previously, we issued a warning before suspension, but now that we are rolling out widespread verification, there will be no warning.”
The company also added a number of “official” labels to high-profile accounts. As noticed by Daily Wire writer Ryan Saavedra, however, a number of right-leaning users and organizations did not receive the designation. While CNN and Starbucks were labeled “official,” Fox News and Chick-fil-A were not.
Beyond Musk’s frustration with fake accounts, which almost caused him to back out from the acquisition deal, the entrepreneur released a statement explaining that the $44 billion purchase was motivated by a desire to foster open dialogue and free expression.
“The reason I acquired Twitter is because it is important to the future of civilization to have a common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner, without resorting to violence,” he explained. “There is currently great danger that social media will splinter into far right wing and far left wing echo chambers that generate more hate and divide our society.”
Musk induced frustration from leftists after he officially took control of the platform. Musk said that multiple advertisers have since ended their relationships with Twitter, dealing a significant blow to the company at the behest of several left-leaning organizations.