Musk threatens to kick off Twitter account impersonators

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Elon Musk tweeted on Sunday that Twitter would 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 reaction to the billionaire’s decision. ‘offering verified accounts to all comers for $8 a month as it simultaneously laid off much of the workforce.

“Going forward, all Twitter accounts that engage in impersonation without clearly specifying ‘parody’ will be permanently suspended,” Musk wrote. While Twitter previously issued warnings ahead of the suspensions, now that it is rolling out “widespread verification, there will be no warning.”

In fact, “any name change” would result in the temporary loss of a verified tick, the world’s richest man has claimed.

Actress Kathy Griffin had his account suspended on Sunday after changing his screen name to Musk. She told a Bloomberg reporter that she also used her profile picture.

“Guess not ALL the content moderators were fired? Lol,” Griffin then joked on Mastodon, an alternative social media platform where she created an account last week.

Actress Valerie Bertinelli had also appropriated Musk’s screen name – posting a series of tweets supporting the Democratic candidates on Saturday before reverting 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 check mark. It was granted free of charge to people whose identity has been confirmed by Twitter employees; journalists representing a large part of the recipients. “It just meant that your identity had been verified. Scammers would have a harder time impersonating you,” Bertinelli noted.

“That no longer applies. Good luck there! she added.

$8 verified accounts are Musk’s way of democratizing the service, he claims. On Saturday, a Twitter update for iOS devices listed on Apple’s App Store said users who “sign up now” for the new “Twitter Blue with verification” can get the blue checkmark next to their name” just like the celebrities, businesses, and politicians you already follow.

He said the service would first be available in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. However, it was unavailable on Sunday and there was no indication of when it would go live. Twitter employee Esther Crawford told The Associated Press that it will be coming “soon but hasn’t launched yet.”

Twitter did not respond to an email Sunday seeking comment on the verified accounts issue and Griffin’s suspension.

Musk then tweeted: “Twitter must become by far the most accurate source of information on the world. This is our mission.

If the company were to strip current verified users of blue checks — something that hasn’t happened — it could exacerbate misinformation on the platform during Tuesday’s midterm elections.

Like Griffin, some Twitter users have already started migrating 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 breakdown in moderation and verification could create gratuitous disinformation for all about what has been the internet’s main conduit for trusted communications from public agencies and other institutions.

Many companies have suspended advertising on the platform over fears it will 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 moderation staff were the group least affected by the job cuts.

Musk tweeted Friday night that there was no choice but to cut jobs “when the company is losing over $4 million a day.” He did not provide details of the daily losses on Twitter and said employees who lost their jobs were offered three months’ salary as severance pay.

Frank Bajak, Associated Press

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