Elon Musk devised a plan to democratize Twitter verifications. However, it only stayed for two days and caused a huge mess.
Initially, it felt like Twitter might actually solve the impersonation issue as it introduced a separate “official” badge that would be attached to “government accounts, commercial companies, business partners, major media outlets, publishers, and some public figures.” However, paid verification was launched Wednesday, without the label. The former idea died down as soon as it was born.
This technique failed quite embarrassingly. A fake Nintendo account posted an image of Mario flipping everyone off. A fake Tony Blair retweeted a fake George Bush. A verified Pope John Paul tweeted conspiracy theories at a verified Martin Luther account, which was replying to a verified Pope Francis impersonator. An account posing as Twitter’s official @verified tweeted crypto scams. An imposter LeBron said he was requesting a trade.
Twitter responded by putting a pause on Blue subscriptions for new accounts, but the move had little effect on the deluge of verified trolling. Fake accounts came up to interact with other impersonators.
One of the most viral examples was a verified Eli Lilly account that tweeted “insulin is free now,” which forced the real Eli Lilly to apologize for the “misleading” tweet because its insulin is, in fact, not free. Another fake Eli Lilly then apologized for the actual Eli Lilly’s apology. An account that appeared to belong to a Twitter ad sales rep desperately tweeted at Musk to remove the fake Eli Lilly accounts. Both of the fake Eli Lilly accounts were suspended. This took a toll on the company’s stock price.
Musk responded by saying, “Tricking people is not okay.” A fake Tesla account going by @Teslareal scrawled “parody” onto the header image in its profile but continued to troll Musk (the account is now suspended).
Additionally, several extremists and conspiracy theorists also purchased verification, including — ironically — Jason Kessler, whose 2017 Twitter verification prompted a nearly four-year “pause” of verification.
By Friday morning Twitter Blue subscriptions were no longer available in Twitter’s app or website. And it’s unclear when it could re-launch. And, two days after Musk said the blue check would be “the great leveler,” Twitter confirmed it would bring back the grey “official” label after all in order to “combat impersonation.”
Nevertheless, Musk was not very upset as, “Some epically funny tweets,” he said. “Hit an all-time high of active users today,” he added.