Twitter erupted Sunday afternoon after left-wing comedian Kathy Griffin was suspended for violating the platform’s terms of service about impersonating other people.
New Twitter CEO Elon Musk warned that moving forward, accounts would be permanently banned without warning if they attempted to impersonate other accounts.
“Going forward, any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying ‘parody’ will be permanently suspended,” Musk tweeted. “Previously, we issued a warning before suspension, but now that we are rolling out widespread verification, there will be no warning.”
“This will be clearly identified as a condition for signing up to Twitter Blue,” Musk continued. “Any name change at all will cause temporary loss of verified checkmark.”
Griffin’s account was banned after she impersonated Musk by changing her profile photo to his photo and her user name to “Elon Musk,” even though her handle remained “@kathygriffin.”
Memes quickly flooded the internet mocking Griffin, 62, with many using her highly controversial photo shoot when she held a fake, severed head of then-President Donald Trump for the camera.
Conservative actor James Woods posted a meme to Twitter showing Musk holding Griffin’s head.
“In context maybe the greatest meme ever,” Woods tweeted.
In context maybe the greatest meme ever… pic.twitter.com/X5lfcmymf0
— James Woods (@RealJamesWoods) November 7, 2022
Other notable memes and reactions included:
Someone needs to photoshop this with Elon and Kathy Griffin. pic.twitter.com/oieCTVv0ac
— James Morrow (@pwafork) November 7, 2022
Got em! pic.twitter.com/WBn0vYVxYb
— Benny Johnson (@bennyjohnson) November 7, 2022
I must admit, I never thought Kathy Griffin would be the cause that finally rallied the Twitter elite back to the cause of free speech. #freekathygriffin
— David Sacks (@DavidSacks) November 7, 2022
— Mostly Peaceful Memes (@MostlyPeacefull) November 7, 2022
— The Right To Bear Memes (@grandoldmemes) November 7, 2022
Musk responded to a Twitter account posting the news that Griffin was banned for impersonating him by first taking a swipe at her and then saying he would let her back on the platform.
“Actually, she was suspended for impersonating a comedian,” Musk tweeted. “But if she really wants her account back, she can have it.”
Musk later added that she would have to pay the $8 fee to use the new Twitter Blue.
Musk also claimed that banning accounts for impersonation does not go against his views on free speech. “My commitment to free speech extends even to not banning the account following my plane, even though that is a direct personal safety risk,” Musk tweeted.
Twitter has explicit rules prohibiting the impersonation of other people. “You may not impersonate individuals, groups, or organizations to mislead, confuse, or deceive others, nor use a fake identity in a manner that disrupts the experience of others on Twitter,” the company’s terms of service says.
The company does make exceptions for parody accounts, but the accounts have to clearly state that they are parodies.
“If we determine a profile features another’s image, we will also evaluate the context in which the image is used,” the terms of service state. “We are most likely to take action if an account falsely claims to be the entity portrayed in the profile photo, as with impersonation or fake accounts.”