Fake Twitter accounts have been flooding the platform after its new boss Elon Musk scrapped its verification policies.
Fake and 'parody' Twitter accounts have been flooding the platform since its verification policy was scrapped by the social media giant’s new owner, Elon Musk.
Just two weeks ago, Musk purchased Twitter for $44 billion. Since then, advertisers have been fleeing and ‘verified’ impersonators have wrought havoc.
Fake AIPAC. 8 bucks gets you stuff like this. Twitter is now overflowing with fake and parody ‘verified’ accounts. https://t.co/rbKaCchGrD— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) November 11, 2022
The chaos follows Musk’s decision to offer the platform’s blue check mark to any user for a $7.99 monthly subscription, instead of only verified accounts that are of public interest.
Musk claimed the pay system would defeat the bots and trolls. But soon after the company rolled out the subscription service on Wednesday, a blue tick account pretending to be Bush tweeted “I miss killing Iraqis” accompanied by a sad-face emoji.
NBA star LeBron James and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair were also impersonated, with the latter’s fake account retweeting Blair’s post and adding: “Same tbh (to be honest).”
Fake accounts of several big brands have popped up with the blue tick, including Musk's Tesla and SpaceX as well as Eli Lilly and Co, Nestle and Lockheed Martin.
Is the new @Twitter @verified working?— Elliott King #DigitalMarketing (@elliott_king) November 11, 2022
A 'verified' account, purporting to be former US president George Bush, tweeted: "I miss killing Iraqis"
Shortly after another, claiming to be ex-PM Tony Blair, quote tweeted the fake Bush account saying: "Same tbh"@InstituteGC @BushFdn pic.twitter.com/ohoQJmVG2Q
Critics have warned of the dangers of trolls impersonating Twitter accounts of government and other agencies, particularly in emergency situations including natural disasters, when citizens rely on social media to keep up to date with local authorities and other relevant information.
A terrorist attack, mass shooting or natural disaster is unfolding.— Shayan Sardarizadeh (@Shayan86) November 10, 2022
A bunch of trolls pay for a Twitter blue tick to impersonate local authorities, emergency services or police and tweet fake advice to residents.
Twitter is not quick enough to suspend them.
The company said on Friday it would reinstate the "official" badge given to some accounts, days after removing it.
"To combat impersonation, we've added an 'Official' label to some accounts," Twitter's support account, which has the "official" tag, tweeted on Friday. Musk on Wednesday tweeted he had "killed" the new label, just hours after rolling it out.
Meanwhile, a number of users said the option to sign up for Twitter Blue, the $8 subscription service that comes with blue tick verification, had disappeared.
Another fake-but-verified Twitter account. This time, it's one of the world's biggest military contractors. What could go wrong? pic.twitter.com/MmbpcAQa1H— Drew Harwell (@drewharwell) November 11, 2022
More chaos ensued later in the week as key security executives resigned from the platform, drawing a sharp warning from US regulators.
"I've made the hard decision to leave Twitter," tweeted chief security officer Lea Kissner, who reportedly stepped down with other key privacy or security executives.
Twitter’s head of trust and safety Yoel Roth also resigned, just a day after staunchly defending Musk's content moderation policy to advertisers.
Musk warned employees Thursday that the site was burning through cash dangerously fast, raising the specter of bankruptcy if the situation was not turned around.
The chaos drew a rare warning from the Federal Trade Commission, the US authority overseeing consumer safety that had put Twitter under watch for past security and privacy breaches.
"We are tracking recent developments at Twitter with deep concern," an FTC spokesperson said in a statement.
"No CEO or company is above the law, and companies must follow our consent decrees," the spokesperson added, referring to past commitments by Twitter to obey US privacy rules.
Violating FTC decisions could cost the company millions of dollars in fines.