Eli Lily posted an unusual message on Twitter yesterday. The pharma giant has apologized for a misleading tweet in which someone impersonating the company wrote: “We are delighted to announce that insulin is now free.”
The company sells insulin, and it’s not free.
Eli Lilly (real handle @LillyPad) can thank the changes introduced to Twitter since Elon Musk’s $44 billion takeover for the confusion. The pranksters were able to easily create an official-looking Twitter account – with a blue checkmark for the fake username “EliLillyandCo” – by paying $8 a month for Twitter Blue. The new subscription service, introduced under Musk, comes with a blue tick that previously meant accounts were legit.
A few hours after the fake message, Eli Lilly’s stock fell sharply. The extent to which the drop was related to the release is not entirely clear. But similarly, shares of Lockheed Martin fell after a fake account – again using Twitter Blue – said the company was halting arms sales in some countries.
Gaming companies Nintendo and Valve have also been targeted by pranksters using Twitter Blue, as have high profile athletes including NBA star LeBron James (claiming to be asking for a trade) and Major League Baseball pitcher Aroldis Chapman (claiming to have signed an agreement which he did not).
Twitter Blue was unavailable on Friday after the wave of impostor accounts.
Twitter’s blue checks under Musk
Before Musk took over the platform, blue checks were used to mark legitimate accounts and were distributed freely to Twitter sources deemed notable and trustworthy.
On November 5, Twitter announced the Twitter Blue service, stating in an update to its app on Apple iOS devices that users could receive the blue check mark next to their name “just like celebrities, businesses and politicians that you already follow”.
This opened the door to pranksters who, in the case of Eli Lilly’s deception, trolled both the pharmaceutical companies and Twitter.
Pharmaceutical companies have faced pressure from the high cost of insulin and other drugs. This helped pass the Cut Inflation Act – President Joe Biden’s sweeping health care, climate and tax legislation – including a provision capping the cost of insulin at $35. per month (for Medicare beneficiaries at least).
Eli Lilly did not mention insulin or pricing in his clarification note from his real Twitter account, simply writing, “We apologize to those who received a misleading message from a fake Lilly account. Our official Twitter account is @LillyPad.
Eli Lilly faced even more trickery from a second fake Twitter account, this one using “LillyPadCo”, Initiated reported. Also claiming to be the real company account, he apologized for the first fake post, writing that Humalog, a diabetes drug sold by Eli Lilly, “is now $400. We can do it whenever we want and you can’t do anything about it. Suck it.
The pharmaceutical company’s spokesperson said Fortune, “We are deeply committed to ensuring that patients and customers receive accurate information about our medicines. In recent days, fake Twitter accounts/parody for Lilly have been posting false information and we are working to correct this situation.
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