- Twitter’s new verification system is already being abused by trolls posing as public figures.
- Accounts posing as LeBron James, George W. Bush and OJ Simpson have already appeared.
- Twitter owner Elon Musk responded with a laugh when a user showed him such accounts.
Twitter’s launch of $8 verification on Wednesday saw the new system almost instantly abused by users impersonating and parodying celebrities and other public figures.
In a stark example, a verified account claiming to be former US President George W. Bush made a tasteless joke about the 43rd President’s role in the Iraq War, tweeting, “I miss killing Iraqis” with a face emoji. sad.
The tweet was then retweeted by an account posing as Tony Blair – the former British Prime Minister who joined the 2003 invasion of Iraq – who added: “Ditto tbh.”
The Bush account’s biography also makes a crude joke about a frequently-discussed online conspiracy theory linking the Bush administration to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, saying, “What if I had done 9/11.”
The two fake accounts were still live on Twitter on Thursday morning, more than ten hours after the tweets were sent, although they had been deleted at the time of publication.
Elon Musk previously said impersonators would be “permanently suspended” unless clearly identified as parodies.
Neither Bush nor Blair have personal Twitter accounts, but are verified by their foundations. The confusion over real accounts follows Wednesday’s brief introduction of an “official” label for accounts for companies and prominent figures, which was rolled out for just hours before Musk stepped in and removed the feature.
Other examples of fake verified accounts causing trouble soon after the new verification system arrived included a user posing as OJ Simpson. The account, which had a handle nearly identical to the real OJ Simpson, tweeted a reference to Simpson’s infamous 1994 murder trial – when he was acquitted of murdering his ex-wife Nicole.
“I’m ngl i did this shit,” the verified account “ThaReal0J32” tweeted, attracting over 55,000 likes before it was deleted.
The real football star – whose username uses ‘The’ instead of ‘Tha’ and ‘O’ instead of a zero – has yet to be verified on the platform despite having nearly 900,000 followers. He previously praised Musk for the takeover, adding, “Maybe now I can get checked out.”
Tweeters also used the new easy verification access to impersonate NBA legend LeBron James and claim he had requested a trade away from the Los Angeles Lakers, according to The Verge. The now-suspended @KLNGJamez account – Twitter font means capital Ls look like the letter I – used emojis and hashtags that the real James often uses.
One user made a verified parody of games company Nintendo and tweeted an image of Mario showing his middle finger, while a fake Joe Biden spoke in self-righteousness.
When James Felton, a British author, sent the tweets to Musk, the Twitter owner simply replied with a pair of laughing emojis.
Some of the trolls used their moment in the spotlight to slam the new system, which allows anyone to get a blue tick for an $8 monthly subscription to Twitter Blue.
OJ Simpson’s fake account, for example, tweeted that Twitter “should never have given an MFer like me $8,” and blamed Musk for giving “such easy access” to the status.
The fake Bush account also responded to tweets about the fake verified accounts saying, “Jed [Bush’s younger brother] is smarter than Elon.”
After undoing the “Official” tag on Wednesday, Musk tweeted: “Blue verification will be the big leveler,” but later said in a Twitter space that the verification charge might be “a dumb move, but we’ll see.”
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