One of the great objectives of Elon Musk in his intention to acquire Twitter was to make the platform reign freedom of expression; that any user can share her opinion, however controversial it may be, without the social network limiting or even permanently suspending her account.
Since then, and especially since the tycoon completed the purchase of Twitter, we have seen how users have taken advantage of that “freedom of expression” that Musk promised so much to publish racist content from minute zero. Also how the news about the return of accounts that have done nothing but encourage hate speech and disinformation —like Donald Trump’s— have spread like wildfire.
Recently, moreover, there has been a move that has been very little unusual during the leadership of Parag Agrawal or Jack Dorsey on Twitter. Is about phishing by verified accounts, who modify their profile name to impersonate other people and post content in their name. It is, again, a movement made by users (mainly comedians). These, in particular, take advantage of Elon Musk’s promise of freedom of expression. Something that surprisingly the manager himself seems to be punishing under the current platform guidelines.
Freedom of expression? Yes, but with nuances
Twitter, specifically, has permanently suspended some accounts of comedians posing as someone else taking advantage of verification to feign notoriety. A clear example is the actress and comedian Kathy Griffin. Her Twitter profile has been shut down for impersonating Elon Musk himself to parody him and posting content in her name.
It is without a doubt, a somewhat contradictory measure to the director’s own speech. Above all, if we take into account that these profiles have done nothing more than, apparently, share content freely and as a parody. Even, Musk himself said that comedy “is now legal on Twitter.”
But what happens when the promise of freedom of expression is combined with that of making Twitter a place where fake accounts have no place; another of Musk’s great commitments? That those who try to impersonate other people end up being removed from the platform.
The solution so that both promises complement each other? Make an exception. If a Twitter account wants to impersonate another to post mocking content, they can do so, but they must explicitly mention that it is a “parody” on their profile. It is, in fact, something that Elon Musk himself has clarified in a tweet.
“Going forward, any Twitter user who engages in phishing without clearly specifying ‘parody’ will be permanently suspended.”
Rules that were already present on Twitter
Interestingly, the measure that Musk has taken against those accounts that intend to impersonate relevant public figures, is not new. Twitter, under the direction of Agrawal or Dorsey, also carried out measures to suspend accounts that spoofed identity by changing their username.
In fact, and despite the fact that Elon Musk seems to have fired those responsible for suspending Donald Trump’s Twitter account, he himself said that this and other previously suspended profiles will not be available again until they have “a clear process for do it”. In any case, we must bear in mind that Musk’s entry into the social network, although it has been very pronounced, is very recent.
There are still many changes on the way, so it is normal that some of the measures that the tycoon is currently taking are simply rules that were already present on Twitter.