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Twitter CEO Elon Musk brutally trolled a sitting Democrat United States Senator after he complained that a parody account mimicking him had been verified.
“A @washingtonpost reporter was able to create a verified account impersonating me—I’m asking for answers from @elonmusk who is putting profits over people and his debt over stopping disinformation. Twitter must explain how this happened and how to prevent it from happening again,” Democrat Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey said.
Musk responded by saying, “Perhaps it is because your real account sounds like a parody?”
Perhaps it is because your real account sounds like a parody?
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 13, 2022
“Apparently, due to Twitter’s lax verification practices and apparent need for cash, anyone could pay $8.00 and impersonate someone on your platform. Selling the truth is dangerous and unacceptable. Twitter must explain how this happened and how it will prevent it from happening again,” the senator said.
“Safeguards such as Twitter’s blue checkmark once allowed users to be smart, critical consumers of news and information in Twitter’s global town square,” he said. “But your Twitter takeover, rapid and haphazard imposition of platform changes, removal of safeguards against disinformation, and firing of large numbers of Twitter employees have accelerated Twitter’s descent into the Wild West of social media. That is unacceptable. Twitter and its leadership have a responsibility to the public to ensure the platform doesn’t become a breeding ground for manipulation and deceit.
“Notwithstanding Twitter’s termination of Twitter Blue and paid-for blue checkmark verification shortly following the publication of the Washington Post article and the proliferation of imposter accounts, Senator Markey requested Twitter leadership provide answers to the following questions:
What was Twitter’s process for issuing paid-for blue checkmark verification of a Twitter account?
What was Twitter’s process for issuing verification of an account that is “notable in government, news, entertainment, or another designated category” on your platform? Please describe the internal steps at Twitter that were supposed to be followed for these processes.
How did the paid-for blue check verification process differ from the free verification process that preceded it?
How dis Twitter’s system allow a Washington Post reporter to obtain verification of a fake account?
Is Twitter planning to reintroduce a verification system?
On Wednesday, Musk’s platform rolled out a new way to identify “official” Twitter accounts, but then “killed” the idea hours later.
“The social media platform is working to reconsider which users receive the blue checkmark icon next to their names,” the Daily Wire reported. “Before the world’s richest man acquired the company, the symbol indicated accounts 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 new addition featured the word “official” underneath verified accounts along with the noted blue checkmark.
Existing blue-check users received the new designation under “previous verification criteria,” the platform noted, or after enrolling in Twitter Blue, a new $7.99-per-month subscription plan that was introduced on Wednesday in which users pay for their verification.
After receiving confused responses and outright pushback, Musk said he personally “killed” the idea the same day it was introduced.
I just killed it
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 9, 2022
Later, he noted: “Please note that Twitter will do lots of dumb things in coming months,” adding that the company will “keep what works” and “change what doesn’t.”
Please note that Twitter will do lots of dumb things in coming months.
We will keep what works & change what doesn’t.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 9, 2022
Earlier in the week, Musk made a subtle but potentially telling change to his profile that may signal tough times ahead for him and for the remaining staff at the company.
Shortly after Musk took over earlier this month, he changed his profile to say “Chief Twit.” But over the weekend, he changed his location to read “Hell” — after getting no small amount of pushback and grief for laying off roughly half of the platform’s 7,500 employees worldwide. He also updated his profile to read, “Twitter Complaint Hotline Operator.”
The SpaceX and Tesla founder and CEO, meanwhile, has also been attempting to assure advertisers and users that he is not sacking content moderation on the platform. In fact, according to a report over the weekend, Musk did not lay off any of the approximately 2,000 content moderation staff.
“Regarding Twitter’s reduction in force, unfortunately, there is no choice when the company is losing over $4M/day. Everyone [who] exited was offered 3 months of severance, which is 50% more than legally required,” he explained on the platform after locking out all employees on Friday following an email sent to every staffer warning them of what was coming a day earlier.
Still, Musk is facing a lawsuit from at least four former employees who claim he violated state law by not giving them enough warning before laying them off.
In addition, Musk also reminded platform users that content moderation was not going away.
“Again, to be crystal clear, Twitter’s strong commitment to content moderation remains absolutely unchanged. In fact, we have actually seen hateful speech at times this week decline *below* our prior norms, contrary to what you may read in the press,” he tweeted Friday.
Again, to be crystal clear, Twitter’s strong commitment to content moderation remains absolutely unchanged.
In fact, we have actually seen hateful speech at times this week decline *below* our prior norms, contrary to what you may read in the press.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 4, 2022
Regarding the layoffs, The Daily Caller noted further:
Despite the mass layoffs, the platform’s 2000 content moderators were mostly “not impacted,” according to Twitter’s Head of Safety and Integrity Yoel Roth. He added that the daily volume of “moderation actions” is the same under Musk as it was under the previous leadership.
As the midterms approach, Roth also stated that combatting “harmful misinformation that can suppress the vote” remains Twitter’s “top priority.”