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


Twitter has paused allowing signups for its paid subscription feature that gives out blue check marks amid a flood of fake accounts just days after Twitter launched the controversial feature.

A note sent to Twitter employees Thursday night said the decision was made to temporarily disable sign-ups for Twitter Blue, its new $7.99 offering that allows accounts to receive a blue check mark. According to the memo, seen by The Washington Post, the purpose of the break was to “help address issues of impersonation.”

A number of new accounts with blue check marks impersonating politicians, celebrities and brands – including President Biden – have surfaced this week 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.

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A fake account purporting to be basketball star LeBron James falsely tweeted that the athlete was requesting a trade. Former President George W. Another fake account with a blue check mark pretending to be Bush tweeted “I miss killing Iraqis.”

And a fake account pretending to be pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly received 1,500 retweets and more than 10,000 likes and remained online three hours after Thursday afternoon. An Eli Lilly spokesperson told The Post on Thursday that they are “in talks with Twitter to resolve the issue.”

Twitter appears to be playing whack-a-mole with fake accounts — some were suspended by Friday, but many remained online. The company rolled out new features to its subscription Twitter Blue product, and by Thursday night many people reported that the option to subscribe to Blue had disappeared from their apps.

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Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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The decision to pause the new product signed 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 already bills himself as CEO of companies including Tesla and SpaceX, has moved quickly to implement changes and has had to backtrack several times in recent days.

Last week, it laid off nearly half of Twitter’s 7,500 staff members, citing concerns about the company’s ability to police misinformation and other harmful content on the site. Over the weekend, the company tried to take some of them back.

Civil rights groups 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 company’s head of content moderation, who participated in a Twitter space public meeting 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 could be remote — and making more departures likely.

Twitter Blue is Musk’s first major product change: an overhaul of Twitter’s verification system — opening up the process of getting a blue check mark to users willing to pay. The initial rollout was dialed back because Musk raised concerns about its design.

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Such rapid rollouts of products were particularly concerning to privacy employees, some of whom quit on Thursday. They said they required a full security review under an order filed by Twitter with the Federal Trade Commission earlier this year, following allegations that the company deceptively used phone numbers and other personal information for advertising purposes.

However, overnight, Musk tweeted that the site hit an all-time high of active users on Thursday.

Musk raised the issue of account impersonation late last week, when several people changed their names online to pretend to be billionaires. By Thursday, he had Tweeted a link to update Twitter’s rules and say that “accounts engaging in parody must include ‘parody’ in their name, not just in the bio.”

While Twitter Blue is being 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 check mark pretending to be Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake tweeted a victory Thursday, claiming “I win. I decided it was the truth.”

But the account with the handle @TheRealKariLake is not the official account of the candidate. And it’s too early to tell the race for Arizona’s next governor — Lake, the Republican candidate, is locked in a close race with Democrat Katie Hobbs.

Users can click on the blue check mark and find out if the account was paid to be verified or was part of Twitter’s legacy program, but otherwise it’s hard to tell apart. (The post also found that a bug appears in pop-ups that describe blue check marks — sometimes showing accounts as “significant” when they’re paid.)

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Other bugs appeared 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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Fake accounts of James, Bush and Eli Lilly were suspended. But fake accounts with blue check marks for other companies and prominent figures remained online Friday morning.

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

Earlier this week, the company appeared to be rolling out another label to indicate whether accounts were authentic, but quickly reversed it.

Musk tweeted on Wednesday that “killed him“And a Twitter executive Clarity Later the company was focusing on using the badge for “government and commercial organizations” rather than individuals.

“Besides being an aesthetic nightmare when looking at a Twitter feed, it’s another way to create a two-class system,” Musk said during a Twitter space on Wednesday. “It didn’t address the core problem that there are too many organizations that would be considered official or have legacy blue check marks.”

Even real, official accounts took to Twitter to note the chaos on Friday. Washington State’s official account for the Department of Natural Resources Tweeted“Update: Twitter wildfire at 44 billion acres and 0% contained.”

Drew Harwell contributed to this report.


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