A number of new accounts with blue ticks emerged this week impersonating politicians, celebrities and brands – including President Biden – after the new program launched on Wednesday. It’s part of Elon Musk’s plan to create more revenue streams after his $44 billion acquisition of the site two weeks ago.
A fake account purporting to be basketball star LeBron James falsely tweeted that the athlete was requesting a trade. Another fake account with a blue checkmark pretending to be former president George W. Bush tweeted “I miss killing Iraqis.”
And a fake account posing as pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly received 1,500 retweets and more than 10,000 likes and remained online after three hours Thursday afternoon. A spokesperson for Eli Lilly told The Post on Thursday they are “in communication with Twitter to address the issue.”
Twitter seems to be playing whack-a-mole with the fake accounts – some were suspended on Friday, but many remain online. The company’s rollout of new features in Twitter’s Blue product subscription has been slow, and on Thursday night many people reported that the option to subscribe to Blue had disappeared from the app.
Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The decision to pause new product signings under Musk marks two weeks of chaos under the new owner, the world’s richest man who is also a Twitter super user. Musk, who has considered himself the CEO of companies including Tesla and SpaceX, has been quick to implement changes and has had to back down several times in recent days.
Last week, he laid off about half of Twitter’s 7,500 staff members, raising concerns about the company’s ability to police misinformation and harmful content on the site. Over the weekend, the company tried to hire some of them back.
Civil rights groups have called on advertisers to suspend their campaigns on Twitter, and many have. And a string of executives have left the company — perhaps most notably, the head of the content moderation company, who participated in Twitter Spaces and Musk’s public meeting with advertisers on Wednesday.
Musk also ordered staff to return to the office, reversing a policy at the tech company that all workers could remain isolated — and making more people leave.
Twitter Blue is Musk’s first major product change: an overhaul of Twitter’s verification system – opening up the process to achieve the blue check mark for users willing to pay. The initial rollout was pushed back when Musk expressed concern over the design.
This type of quick roll of products is especially for privacy staff, some of which are out Thursday. They said it needed a full security review as required in an order Twitter filed with the Federal Trade Commission earlier this year, following allegations that the company fraudulently used phone numbers and other personal information for advertising purposes.
Regulators in Europe, which have stricter data protection rules than in the United States, on Friday monitored the rapid development on Twitter. Ireland’s Data Protection Commission has scheduled a meeting with Twitter officials on Monday, DPC spokesman Graham Doyle told The Washington Post.
Irish regulators plan to speak with Twitter about the recent departure of the company’s data protection officer, Damien Kieran. European Union law requires the company to have a designated officer on staff, and the Irish regulator was not notified about the departure of our data protection officer before it was reported in the media, said Doyle. The Irish regulator also plans to press Twitter officials about why the key decision. regarding the processing of personal data of EU users still carried out in Ireland after departure and dismissal.
Ireland currently acts as the lead data protection authority overseeing Twitter in Europe. But if the company no longer makes key decisions there, a designation known as “main establishment,” Twitter may have to answer to individual regulators in all 27 EU member states, which introduces a greater compliance burden for the company. The UK Information Commissioner’s Office also issued a statement on Friday, saying it was continuing to “monitor the situation with Twitter.” It encouraged “anyone concerned” to report them to the office.
Overnight, Musk tweeted that the site hit an all-time high of active users on Thursday.
Musk took issue with account impersonations last weekend, when many people changed their names online to pretend to be millionaires. By Thursday, he had tweeted the link to update Twitter’s rules and say that “accounts that engage in parody must include ‘parody’ in their name, not just in their bio.”
In the future, accounts that engage in parody must include “parody” in their name, not just in their bio
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 11, 2022
While Twitter Blue is paused, existing users will still have access to subscription features, an internal Twitter note said.
In one example of abuse, an account with a blue checkmark pretending to belong to Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake tweeted his victory on Thursday, claiming “I have won. I decided that it was true.”
But that account, with the handle @TheRealKariLake, is not the candidate’s official account. And the race for Arizona’s next governor remains too early to call — Lake, the Republican candidate, is locked in a close race with Democrat Katie Hobbs.
Users can click on the blue checkmark and learn whether the account is paying for verification or part of Twitter’s legacy program, but it’s hard to tell the difference. (Pos also found that there seems to be a bug in the pop-up that explains the blue check mark – sometimes showing accounts as “famous” when they are paid.)
There appears to be another bug with the new service – fake Lake accounts appear with a blue check mark for some users, but not others.
Fake accounts for James, Bush and Eli Lilly suspended. But impersonation accounts with blue check marks for other companies and famous figures remained online Friday morning.
Additionally, the company said in its internal notes that it will add an “Official” gray label to advertiser accounts.
Earlier this week, the company appeared to launch a second label to show if the account was official, but quickly rolled back.
“Besides being an aesthetic nightmare when looking at a Twitter feed, it’s another way to create a two-class system,” Musk said on Twitter Spaces on Wednesday. “It doesn’t solve the core problem of too many entities being considered official or having legacy blue check marks.”
In fact, the official account took note of the chaos Friday on Twitter. The official Washington state account for the department of natural resources tweeted“Update: The Twitter wildfire is at 44 billion acres and 0% contained.”
Drew Harwell contributed to this report.