Fake verified accounts: the big Twitter problem that affected several companies

  • The idea of ​​businessman Elon Musk to charge for the blue badge generated a wave of impostors who, after paying the subscription, posed as various companies and public figures. This led to the temporary suspension of the Twitter Blue service, while some of the companies report million-dollar losses

Twitter Bluethe idea of ​​the billionaire Elon Musk to realize a version premium of the social network, it seems that it has not given the expected result. His plan to award the famous blue verified badge to any user for an $8-a-month subscription resulted in a wave of fake accounts and parodies that took advantage of the brand to pull all sorts of pranks.

Already in the past, these types of accounts that imitated companies or public figures were a serious problem for the platform, being a huge source of misunderstandings and misinformation. Now, it is much easier to fool anyone who trusts them by seeing the blue check in the name.

Within a week of the service since its implementation, a Pepsi account appeared stating that its competition, Coca-Cola, was better. Also one from Nestlé revealing that they stole the town’s water to later sell it, and even one from Nintendo in which an image of his mascot, Mario, was published, showing the middle finger. Even Musk’s own companies like SpaceX, which tweeted that it would trade its special missions for sustainable agriculture projects. “We can’t look to other planets to solve our problems here.”

In the field of celebrities, basketball player LeBron James announced his departure from his historic team, the Los Angeles Lakers, while former US President George W. Bush admitted that he misses killing Iraqis. Even a verified account of Jesus Christ himself appeared announcing his second coming. Of course, each and every one of these posts was false.

Photo: Courtesy

stock market crash

Until now, many of these identity theft cases had been pranks that, although they put those involved in trouble, did not have major repercussions. The real trouble occurred on November 11, when the Wall Street shares of Eli Lilly and Company, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, plummeted.

Apparently, a person impersonated the official account of the company using a paid verification mark. As a joke, he posted that from now on insulin would be free. Many users believed that it was a real announcement, including several investors. In a matter of hours, its value on the stock market fell by 4%, with losses of 14,000 million dollars, and which also affected other insulin producers such as Novo Nordisk and Sanofi.

Eli Lilly’s real account issued a statement to clarify the situation and apologize for the inconvenience caused. Although several analysts attribute the fall to the panic generated by the tweet, the EFE agency noted that, in general, it was a bad day for the health sector, with contractions of between 2.99% and 4.06% for other important companies in the field. like UnitedHealth, Johnson & Johnson, and MSD. For this reason, it is still not entirely clear how much the message influenced its stock market performance.

But the pharmaceutical company has not been the only one affected by the trolls from Internet. The multinational Lockheed Martin, dedicated to the military and aerospace industry, also suffered identity theft on Twitter. In this case, the fake account reported that the company would stop manufacturing weapons for the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia, three of its main markets. At the close of business on Friday, November 11 on Wall Street, Lockheed Martin shares had already plunged 5.48%.

suspended service

Elon Musk canceled the purchase of Twitter: the details
Elon Musk. Photo: EFE

Different media like fortune Y Los Angeles Times have reported that since November 11 the Twitter Blue service is temporarily suspended. Although neither the platform nor Elon Musk have officially confirmed it, the blue badge subscription service became unavailable shortly after the Eli Lilly and Lockheed Martin incidents.

The launch of the service had already been frozen a week earlier, precisely to prevent the proliferation of fake accounts from affecting the results of the midterm elections in the United States. It had been reintroduced on November 9 along with other measures Twitter was experimenting with to differentiate authenticated accounts by relevance from those verified by subscription.

One of them was the creation of the gray badge, which appeared below the account name with the inscription “Official”. However, the idea was scrapped a few days later amid criticism for being exactly the same as the blue badge and not really helpful in distinguishing a real account from a fake one. “Keep in mind that Twitter will be doing a lot of dumb things in the coming months. We will drop what works and change what doesn’t,” Musk wrote.

However, given the contingency to restore confidence to companies and advertisers, the platform reactivated the gray mark. At the moment, it is being used to identify government institutions and some media outlets such as Univision either D.W..

Relentless search

Twitter will remove accounts that try to impersonate other users
Photo: Courtesy

Most imposter accounts were suspended shortly after going viral. Although in some cases, like Eli Lilly’s, his messages lasted hours being shared until the Twitter team deleted them. Despite the fact that Musk assured that he would improve the platform’s content moderation system, it is a complicated task after lay off more than 50% of your staff.

The mogul’s promise to turn Twitter into a great arena for free expression seems to have found its first stone in the way many users used his own premium service against him. Either as an act of protest or simply to generate chaos.

Before Twitter Blue came into force, accounts had already emerged that impersonated Musk himself. One of them was the American comedian Kathy Griffin. She simply changed her name to the businessman’s and used the verified one she already had to show that it was a bad idea to give anyone a blue badge. His account was suspended, as were hundreds of other users who also impersonated him. On November 7, Musk said that would take more severe measures against those who engage in identity theft, even for comic purposes.

“Going forward, any Twitter user who engages in spoofing without clearly specifying that it is parody will be permanently banned,” he wrote. He indicated that the accounts should have the clarification explicitly in their name and not just in their description. Likewise, he indicated that any name change could warrant the temporary suspension of the verified check for Twitter Blue users.

“Previously we issued a warning before the suspension, but now that we are implementing widespread verification, there will be no warning. This will be clearly identified as a condition for registration,” he said. Although clearly, this was not fulfilled.

What is verified for?

Before Musk’s announcements, Twitter was selective in awarding its blue badge. When the social network began to gain popularity, the verified was created as a mechanism to identify the official account of a public figure, distinguishing it from any other with the same name.

With the passage of time and the consolidation of the platform, not only as a space for microblogging, but also as a communication channel, it became essential to recognize the accounts of government officials, companies or the media, thus avoiding falling into fake news.

Having an account verification goes beyond the number of followers, and it’s not just for celebrities. In fact, it is also frequently used by journalists, social activists or people linked to different public institutions or non-governmental organizations. According to the platform itself, the three fundamental requirements are that the account is authentic, relevant and active.

The process, while simple, requires checking that the user is legitimate, as well as proving the relevance of the account. The Twitter team is then in charge of reviewing and approving the request if it considers that it meets all the requirements. In fact, the page makes it clear that parody accounts are not eligible, fan pagesfictional characters or mascots, as well as people who violate Twitter policies.

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Fake verified accounts: the big Twitter problem that affected several companies