A hot potato: From the moment he took over Twitter, Elon Musk has said he’s been a believer in free speech. But that pledge is in question after several high profile verified accounts were suspended, possibly permanently, for allegedly impersonating the world’s richest person.
Yesterday, Musk tweeted one of the rules he’s implementing as Twitter’s new overlord: “Any handle on Twitter that engages in impersonation without clearly specifying ‘parody’ will be permanently suspended,” he wrote.
Musk added that Twitter currently issues warnings before suspensions, but now that it is rolling out widespread verification, there will be no warnings before taking action.
Previously, we issued a warning before the suspension, but now that we are rolling out a generalized check, there will be no warning.
This will be clearly identified as a requirement to register for Twitter Blue.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 6, 2022
The billionaire recently confirmed that the price of the optional Twitter Blue service is increasing to $8 a month from $20, and those who subscribe will be verified. This raised questions about verified users impersonating well-known people. Musk said this is solved by including a secondary label under the name of someone who is a public figure, which is already the case for politicians. It was confirmed yesterday that the new verification system will not be rolled out until after the US midterm elections.
Some current verified users are mocking Musk by impersonating him. Kathy Griffin changed her display name to Elon Musk and created a profile picture similar to the Twitter owner’s. She then tweeted, “After many heated discussions with the women in my life, I decided that voting blue for their choice was right (they are hot women too, by the way). The comedian was suspended on Sunday.
— Elon Musk pets dogs (@chaser) November 7, 2022
Actor Rich Sommer, known for his portrayal of Harry Crane in Mad Men, was also suspended for impersonating Musk, as was Australian satire website The Chaser, even though he tagged the account as a parody and chose the username “Elon Musk Fondles Dogs”. ‘ Kotaku notes that Ethan Klein and Chipzel were also suspended/restricted despite following parody etiquette rules. Sarah Silverman’s account has been temporarily locked for her impersonation.
1) 9 days ago, 2) yesterday 3) today. We are having fun pic.twitter.com/eTKAp8PBuK
— Sarah Silverman (@SarahKSilverman) November 7, 2022
It is assumed that some, but certainly not all, of the suspensions are related to another rule announced by Musk which provides for the temporary loss of the verified checkmark after any name change.
Many point to the irony of an Oct. 28 tweet from Musk that read, “Comedy is now legal on Twitter.” He also said no one should be banned for life and promised to allow Donald Trump back on the platform, even though the former president said he didn’t want to return.
— Parker Higgins (in protest) (@xor) November 6, 2022
Part of Musk’s restructuring of Twitter involves laying off about half of its staff, or about 3,700 people. The company is now facing legal action over allegations that the action was unlawful due to insufficient notice. It’s a situation Musk knows well: the same thing happened at Tesla a few months ago.