December 4, 2022

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Elon Musk’s paid verification on Twitter paused after fake accounts spread

Suspension

Twitter has temporarily stopped letting people sign up for a paid subscription feature that gives blue check marks amid the influx of fake accounts, just days after it launched the controversial feature.

A note to Twitter employees sent Thursday night stated that it was decided to temporarily disable subscriptions to Twitter Blue, a new $7.99 offer that allows accounts to have a blue check mark. The stop was intended to “help address impersonation issues,” according to the note seen by The Washington Post.

A number of new accounts with a blue check mark appeared this week impersonating politicians, celebrities and brands – including President Biden – after the launch of the new program 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.

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A fake account claiming to be basketball star LeBron James falsely tweeted that the athlete was asking for a deal. “I miss killing Iraqis,” tweeted another fake account with a blue check mark pretending to be former President George W. Bush.

A fake account pretending to be drug giant Eli Lilly garnered 1,500 retweets and more than 10,000 likes and remained online three hours later on Thursday afternoon. A spokesperson for Eli Lilly told The Post Thursday that they are “in contact with Twitter to address the issue.”

Twitter appears to be playing a whack-a-mole game with fake accounts – some were suspended by Friday, but many remained online. The company’s rollout of new features in its Twitter Blue subscription product has been tough, and by Thursday night, several people reported that the Blue subscription option had disappeared from their apps.

Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Twitter’s paid verification service is available here. What you need to know.

The decision to pause a new premium product under Musk marks two weeks of chaos under the new owner, the world’s richest man who is also a Twitter superuser. Musk, who already sees himself as CEO of companies like Tesla and SpaceX, has moved quickly to implement the changes and has had to backtrack several times in recent days.

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Last week, he laid off nearly half of Twitter’s 7,500 employees, raising concerns about the company’s ability to police misinformation and other harmful content on the site. Over the weekend, the company tried to rehire some of them.

Civil rights groups have called on advertisers to suspend their Twitter campaigns, and many have done so. A series of executives have left the company — perhaps most notably, the company’s chief content officer, who participated in a public meeting on Twitter Spaces with Musk and advertisers on Wednesday.

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Musk also ordered employees to return to the office, reversing the tech company’s policy that all workers can stay away — making further departures a possibility.

Twitter Blue is Musk’s first major product change: an overhaul of Twitter’s verification system — opening the process to accessing a blue check mark for users who were willing to pay. The initial release was brought back again as Musk expressed concerns about its design.

This kind of rapid product rollout was particularly worrisome for privacy staff, some of whom quit Thursday. They said they needed full security reviews required under Twitter’s entry order with the Federal Trade Commission earlier this year, following allegations that the company deceptively used phone numbers and other personal information for advertising purposes.

Regulators in Europe, which has stricter data protection rules than the United States, were keeping a close eye on rapid developments on Twitter on Friday. The Irish Data Protection Commission has scheduled a meeting with Twitter officials on Monday, DPC spokesperson Graham Doyle told the Washington Post.

Irish regulators plan to speak with Twitter about the recent departure of the company’s chief data protection officer, Damien Keran. Doyle said EU laws require companies to hire a specific employee, Irish regulators have not been notified of the data protection official’s departure before it was reported to the media, and the Irish regulator also plans to pressure Twitter officials over key decisions. About the processing of personal data of EU users is still carried out in Ireland after departure and demobilization.

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Ireland currently serves as the main data protection authority that oversees Twitter in Europe. But if the company no longer makes major decisions there, which is known as the “main organization”, Twitter may have to respond to individual regulators in all 27 member states of the European Union, increasing the compliance burden on the company. The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office also issued a statement on Friday, saying it was continuing to “monitor the situation via Twitter”. He encouraged “anyone with concerns” to report to the office.

Overnight, Musk tweeted that the site had the highest level of active users on Thursday.

Musk got into trouble with account impersonation last weekend, when many people changed their name online to pretend they were a billionaire. By Thursday, he had tweet link Twitter updated its rules and said, “Accounts engaging in parody must include ‘parody’ in their names, not just in bios.”

An internal Twitter note said that while Twitter Blue is paused, existing users will still have access to subscription features.

In one example of the abuse, an account with a blue checkmark pretending to belong to Arizona Governor Carrie Lake nominee tweeted victory Thursday, claiming “I had. I decided so it’s the truth.”

But the account, titled TheRealKariLake, is not the candidate’s official account. And the race for Arizona’s next governor is still premature — Flick, the Republican nominee, is in a tight race with Democrat Katie Hobbs.

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Users can click the blue check mark and see if the account was paid to be verified or was part of the old Twitter software, but it’s hard to tell otherwise. (the post also found That there appears to be an error in the popups describing blue check marks – sometimes showing accounts as “highlighted” when they are paid instead.)

There seem to be other bugs with the new service – the fake Lake account was showing up with a blue check mark for some users, but not for others.

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The fake accounts of James, Bush and Eli Lilly have been suspended. But impersonation accounts with blue checkmarks for other companies and high-profile personalities remained online on Friday morning.

Additionally, the company said in its internal memo that it will add a gray “official” tag to advertisers’ accounts.

Earlier this week, the company appeared to be putting up a second rating to indicate whether the accounts were official, but it quickly retracted it.

Musk tweeted on Wednesday that he said,I killed herand CEO of Twitter clearer Subsequently, the company was focused on using the badges for “government and commercial entities” rather than individuals.

“Apart from being an aesthetic nightmare when looking at a Twitter feed, it’s simply another way to create a two-tier system,” Musk said during Twitter Spaces on Wednesday. “It wasn’t addressing the fundamental problem of having too many entities to be considered official or have old blue checkmarks.”

Even real official accounts noticed the chaos Friday on Twitter. The official account of the Washington State Department of Natural Resources chirp“Update: The Twitter wildfire has reached 44 billion acres and is 0% contained.”

Drew Harwell contributed to this report.