Elon Musk’s plan to put Twitter’s blue tick verification badges up for sale has reportedly been delayed, slowing the microblogging platform’s rapid plummet to hell by a fraction. However, Musk is also banning unlabelled parody accounts.
Paid verification’s rollout delay comes after Twitter employees and users alike expressed concern at the potentially devastating impact Musk’s scheme could have on election integrity. The ability to buy verification status would allow anyone to obtain a blue tick and use it to masquerade as high-profile figures, letting them publish tweets that appear to come from politicians or news outlets. This could easily fuel misinformation about the election results, and undermine the election.
The likelihood that Twitter will become a dangerous hotbed of disinformation when Musk’s changes do go live is not insignificant. But at least the U.S. gets one last election free of this imminent chaos.
Some verified Twitter users have protested Musk’s verification changes by demonstrating how easily Twitter’s blue tick can be abused — and how easily people can be tricked. Artist Mark Brooks temporarily changed his account name and profile picture to impersonate Harrison Ford, then shared tweets from users who believed him to be the famous actor.
Dozens of users have also changed their usernames to some variation on “Elon Musk (parody)”, while verified accounts belonging to comedian Kathy Griffin, Mad Men actor Rich Sommer, and former NFL player Chris Kluwe have
“Previously, we issued a warning before suspension, but now that we are rolling out widespread verification, there will be no warning,”
This response mitigates rather than prevents damage, and relies on accounts spreading disinformation being caught before they do substantial harm. It becomes even more ineffectual when you consider that
Twitter is also likely to have a hard time distinguishing between an unlabelled parody account and the real deal, as
To top it all off, Musk also stated that
Elon Musk is like a giant, in that he blunders about destroying things with absolutely no concept of what he is doing. Twitter wasn’t necessarily a bastion of virtue before Musk’s takeover. But it’s astounding how far it’s fallen in just over a week.