Twitter: the problem of fake accounts is only getting worse with Elon Musk


Twitter’s first attempt to charge for certification of accounts with a blue checkmark was absolute chaos. That’s not stopping Elon Musk, the company’s new owner, from resurrecting the idea.

Last week, Twitter started allowing certain users
to pay 8 dollars per month
to certify their account under a subscription plan known as Twitter Blue. The company quickly put this plan on hold after
fake accounts with blue badges started impersonating big brands, athletes and politicians. On Tuesday, Elon Musk announced on Twitter that the paid verification system would be available again on November 29.

Twitter users got their first taste of the damage a rapid product change can cause on the platform. Fake accounts have impersonated from Nintendo, Apple, Lockheed Martin, and even Twitter and Tesla, Elon Musk’s electric vehicle company. The pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Co. has
saw its shares plummet after a fake account tweeted
“We are happy to announce that insulin is now free”. Twitter ended up adding a “official” mark to certain accounts to prevent identity theft.

By attacking Twitter’s verification system once again, Elon Musk risks not only making the platform more difficult to use, but also to anger the brands that advertise there. Before buying the influential social network for 44 billion dollars and trying to get rid of the agreement, Elon Musk swore to“defeat the spambots or die trying” and “authenticate all true humans”. However, his solutions have been controversial and don’t work as expected.

Disconcerting changes


“It often feels like when Elon Musk makes these decisions, he’s just having fun – and failing to recognize that this is an important issue for a lot of people”said India McKinney, director of federal affairs at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit digital rights group.

Not only have brands and people had to deal with fake accounts with blue checkmarks, but Twitter users have had to make sense of changes they may not have been aware of. If Twitter users go to an account’s profile and click the blue checkmark, they can see why the account is verified. Twitter previously certified accounts it deemed“active, notable and authentic”but Elon Musk plans to remove unpaid badges in some months.

For Twitter users, the changes are hard to follow.

Jennifer Grygiel, social media expert and associate professor at Syracuse University, said it will be difficult for Elon Musk to get Twitter users to see the platform differently while it’s still pretty much there. same.


“Culture is sticky”she said.
“It takes time to educate people. We have seen what rapid destabilizing change has done. »

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.

Fake verified accounts

Twitter and other social networks have long struggled with fake accounts on their platform. People create fake accounts for a variety of reasons, including to scam money, parody, and spread disinformation. Twitter allows pseudonymous accounts as parodies as long as users do not intend to mislead or deceive others.

When Twitter introduced its new paid verification system last week, a fake account created in 2020 posing as the Canadian psychologist and Harvard professor steven pinkerpurchased verified blue tick.

The fake @realSpinker account, which identified itself as “PARODY”, tweeted
“I apologize for blocking you all. I see now that was not a very rational way to act. »
The tweet got at least 227 likes and 40 retweets. The tweet appeared to refer to Pinker blocking Twitter users in 2020 who mentioned his name with Jeffrey Epstein, a financier and convicted sex offender. Twitter has suspended the fake Pinker’s account.

Steven Pinker, who has more than 794,000 followers on Twitter, said via email that he was unaware of the fake verified account before CNET contacted him.
“Yes, ‘@realSpinker’ is fake Spinker, and I’m glad it was removed”did he declare.

He added that other accounts have impersonated him a few times in the past, but were quickly taken down.

Slow removal of fake accounts

Kevin Long started a company in 2012 called Social Impostor, which identifies and removes fake social media accounts from brands, government ministers, athletes and high-profile actors.

He hasn’t seen an increase in the number of fake Twitter accounts for his clients, but he’s been closely monitoring the changes the social media platform has made to verification.

However, Twitter puts more time to remove fake accounts identified by his company, he said. Kevin Long said he used to have fake Twitter accounts taken down in a day or two, but his company is now a week or more behind reporting. In early November, Twitter
laid off 3,700 people, half of the social media company’s total workforce. According
Platformerthe company eliminated 4,400 contract workers this week.

According to Kevin Long, the fact that more and more companies are trying to automate the process of deleting fake accounts seems to be making the problem worse, not better.


“It’s not just Twitter”he said.
“It’s all the networks that try to do it automatically”.

But those who stand to suffer the most from Twitter’s rapid changes may be those not in the spotlight.

More power of expression for the rich

With 238 million daily users worldwide, rapid developments in Twitter could have a greater impact on developing countries. Twitter Blue was only made available to Apple users in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Subscribers get priority in replies, mentions, and search results. It’s unclear if Twitter will expand the subscription plan to other locations, but Elon Musk said the price will be adjusted depending on the country.


“It risks putting more power or voice in the hands of people who already have wealth and access to an audience.”McKinney said.

If Musk continues to tinker with his new purchase, users may not have the patience to stick around to see what happens.



CNET.com article adapted by CNET France



Twitter: the problem of fake accounts is only getting worse with Elon Musk – CNET France