A drunk dad? Twitter parodies exploited the new blue badge

George W. Bush “misses killing Iraqis,” and Tony Blair agrees. OJ Simpson says he did it. And Elon Musk is offering “free dinners” and family vacations to anyone whose name happens to be his ex, Grimes. At least, that’s what these celebs seemed to be saying on Twitter, and it all had to be true, because they had a blue verification badge next to their names.

However, in reality, these parody accounts simply took advantage of Musk’s Twitter Blue service. For $8 a month, users were awarded the blue badge that previously indicated an account actually belonged to a public figure. The result, to internet pranksters, is an account that appears to belong to a celebrity and looks very real. As the bogus Bush says: $8 is “a small price to pay to render this app completely useless.”

And it meant we got to see Pope Francis drunkenly tweeting about partying in France and LeBron James demanding a trade, while Nintendo released an image of Mario giving everyone the middle finger. In a windfall benefit of the Musk takeover, even the long-dead were finally able to access Twitter, with Martin Luther responding to the fake pope’s offer of $8 indulgences: “I got 95 theses, but… this shit ain’t worth it.” he is the boss”, published the 16th century theologian, in tweets photographed by the user @JoshuaPHill.

We also got a lot more information than we wanted about the sex lives of politicians, including Ted Cruz, who enjoyed feasting on human flesh. Rudy Giuliani offered one enlightening reflection after another of him, including the time George Soros pushed him and he was “stuck to my back like a tortoise for several minutes.” Among other comments, many of them unpublishable, the former mayor challenged Alan Dershowitz to a fight, offered intimate accounts of his bowel movements (“I’d like to announce that I took a shit”), and demanded that his followers “talk to me like a man with a mortgage”. (Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between real and fake accounts.)

Musk, who recently blocked comedian Kathy Griffin on Twitter for impersonating him, doesn’t seem too bothered by the latest round of imposters. The new owner of the platform responded to a complaint about Mario and a very graphic representation of US President Joe Biden with a couple of emojis crying with laughter.

Even so, Twitter suspended many of the accounts in question. It also banned new accounts from signing up for the $8 verification badge service, though it hasn’t provided a reason for that. The site’s rules require that anyone who engages in parody – which recognizes that it “can enrich conversations when the identity of the account does not mislead others” – must indicate in their account name and bio that they do not is affiliated with the real person.

In fact, while this is all quite humorous, it also points out the risks that Blue’s new scheme entails by further blurring the lines between imagination and reality. A parody account for drugmaker Eli Lilly, for example, tweeted: “We’re excited to announce that insulin is now free.” If a similar post, perhaps worded a little more seriously, were taken out of context, it could do real harm. “This is going to be a nightmare that’s going to be hilarious before it gets terrifying,” wrote NBC’s Ben Collins, if that’s really him.

Some are taking steps to protect themselves. According to a person claiming to be the newspaper’s former reporter New York TimesBen Smith, NPR is telling staff not to stop using Twitter for fear someone else could take control of your account and impersonate you.

If you’re not sure whether an account is verified because it belongs to a prominent figure or because its owner has $8 a month, you can open the profile and click the verification badge itself, which could be helpful if Twitter becomes into the “pitched battle hell” that Musk has tried so hard to avoid.

A drunk dad? Twitter parodies exploited the new blue badge