Twitter suspends users for impersonating Elon Musk in first test of its free speech stance

Twitter suspends users for impersonating Elon Musk in first test of its free speech stance

Imitation is said to be the sincerest form of flattery – although Twitter owner Elon Musk may not see it that way.

Comedian Kathy Griffin, YouTube personality Ethan Klein and ‘Mad Men’ actor Rich Sommer each said their Twitter accounts were suspended over the weekend after impersonating Musk, changing their names billboards and their profile pictures to match those of the billionaire.

The decisions to lock down the three Twitter accounts come as Musk, a self-proclaimed ‘free speech absolutist’, faces scrutiny over how he handles speech issues on the platform. . He pledged to make the service a destination for accurate information, but also suggested he could relax the platform’s rules.

Musk also said the company is planning major changes to Twitter’s verification system, opening it up to anyone willing to pay a monthly fee. This idea has raised concerns about safety, security and impersonation on the platform, which seems to be the main motivating factor for the wave of people suddenly impersonating Musk on Twitter.

On Friday, Musk’s team laid off about half the workforce in a bid to cut costs, shake up veteran employees and captivate much of Silicon Valley. The changes to the platform, combined with Twitter’s downsizing, have left some people concerned that the service will struggle to enforce its rules against misinformation and impersonation.

Before Musk took over the company, Twitter had rules against impersonating other accounts “to mislead, confuse, or deceive others.” Parody or fan accounts were instructed to mark in their account name that they were separate from the account they were parodying.

Griffin, Klein and Sommer all appeared to change their account names on their verified profiles to “Elon Musk” without indicating that they were parodying his account.

The suspensions hint at a growing adversarial relationship between Musk and Twitter users who have expressed skepticism about his motives for making the changes. Musk and his deputies — including tech investor David Sacks and Twitter’s top lieutenant Yoel Roth — explained and defended their personal decisions on Twitter itself, mixing them with average users and high-profile figures.

Musk, who acquired Twitter in a $44 billion deal, tweeted on Sunday afternoon that “Going forward, any handles of Twitter that engage in impersonation without clearly specifying the “parody” will be permanently suspended.

As of Monday morning, many Twitter accounts still featured “Elon Musk” in their display names, while others added the “parody” disclaimer. The issue spread across the service, with “parody”, “Kathy Griffin” and “Ethan Klein” all trending on Twitter at various times.

Griffin, a stand-up comedian known for her provocative public statements, apparently drew Musk’s ire after he used his ‘Elon Musk’ parody account to urge people to vote for the Democrats in Tuesday’s midterm elections. .

“I decided voting blue for their choice was right,” she wrote as Musk, who recently embraced the Republican Party, endorsed the GOP in a tweet on Monday,

Kathy Griffin performs at the 2019 Best In Drag Benefiting Aid for AIDS at the Orpheum Theater on October 06, 2019 in Los Angeles.
Kathy Griffin performs in Los Angeles on October 6, 2019. Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Images File

It was not immediately clear if Griffin’s suspension was permanent. Its representatives and Twitter public relations representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Sunday.

However, Musk wasn’t shy about poking fun at Griffin on his own terms. In response to a tweet from conservative personality Benny Johnson, Musk joked: “In fact, she was suspended for posing as a comedian.”

“But if she really wants her account back, she can have it,” he continued, adding in a follow-up tweet, “For $8.” Musk said he intends to charge $8 for the premium Twitter Blue product, which he says will include Twitter verification.

Sacks, who regularly writes about politics from a right-wing or libertarian perspective, appeared to brush off concerns about the implications of Griffin’s suspension in tweets to his more than 462,000 followers on Monday.

“What Kathy Griffin’s uproar represents: a group of elites who support censorship telling free speech advocates that we are not grounded enough unless we allow identity theft. This n It’s not a serious argument and we certainly don’t need sermons from you,” he said. tweeted.

Griffin wasn’t the only public figure trying to test the limits of impersonation on Musk’s platform.

In a series of posts on Instagram, Klein, a popular internet personality, posted screenshots which he said were messages informing him that his Twitter account had been “permanently suspended” after he tweeted under the Musk’s appearance that could be considered controversial. .

In a caption to one of the screenshots, Klein wrote, “Comedy is dead, Elon Musk killed it.” In another caption, he wrote, “I’m glad it’s over. I can finally rest.” (NBC News took screenshots of Klein’s Instagram Story before the posts automatically disappeared.)

Sommer, best known for playing 1960s advertising executive Harry Crane on “Mad Men,” apparently broke Team Musk policies and also had his account suspended.

In a statement to NBC News on Monday, Sommer confirmed he had been “permanently suspended” from Twitter.

“I don’t blame them for suspending me. I broke the rules. But if people honestly thought I was Elon Musk with ‘@richsommer’ right there at the top of every tweet, imagine how much he it will be difficult to discern the veracity of anyone’s identity once they sell a blue check to anyone with eight dollars,” he said.

“If Twitter re-commits to verifying users’ identities before offering them, you know, verification, then it will be a little (barely) safer place,” the actor added.

Justin Sherin, a playwright who offers daily political commentary on Twitter with the voice of former President Richard Nixon via the @dick_nixon account, tweeted on Sunday that he may shift his social media presence to Instagram in light of the Musk crackdown.

“I’ve broken character I think half a dozen times in ten years. I’ve never called RN ‘parody’ because I rather hope he’s more than that,” Sherin tweeted. “Given the new, uh, politics, I think it’s wise to tell you that I can be reached” on her Instagram profile.

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