Twitter has begun rolling out its $8-a-month Twitter Blue subscriptions, with added “verified” checkmarks for paid users. But the social network is also fighting to crack down on a number of accounts that are taking advantage of the confusion over these hashtags, impersonating big brands and celebrities to spread fake information that looks authentic.
In the video game industry, the fraudulent “checkmarked” accounts that appeared Wednesday night included Nintendo of America supposedly showing Mario flipping the birdvalve presumably to inform Ricochet: Neon Primeand Rockstar Games presumably to announce the date of the new trailer Grand Theft Auto VI. In the world of sports, fake Lebron James claimed to be asking for a tradefake Aroldis Chapman said he re-signed with the Yankeesand a fake version of ESPN’s Adam Schefter “reported.” Las Vegas Raiders coach Josh McDaniels presumed departure.
Following sports events and news can turn into a complete mess with the new verification system
Fake tweets from LeBron and Aroldis Chapman are already circulating pic.twitter.com/vQgMqws1W0
– Joon Lee (@joonlee) November 9, 2022
The flagged accounts also gleefully impersonated political figures Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani Thu Former British MP Tony Blair and former US President George Bush. One brave ticked cheater even emulated Twitter itselfpromoting a fake “free” Twitter Blue contract for crypto/NFT holders who “verify their wallet holdings”.
For discerning Twitter users, there are some ways to distinguish these fake checkmarked accounts from previously verified accounts (that didn’t pay for their checkmark with Twitter Blue). When you go to the account profile and click the blue checkmark itself, a tooltip will appear that says either “This account is verified because it’s subscribed to Twitter Blue” or “This account is verified because it’s prominent in administration, news, entertainment, or other specified category.” In some cases, looking at the “Account Created” date or account names like “@nintendoofus” and “@RockstarGamse” might also reveal things.
However, at a quick glance, these paid checkmark accounts can easily appear to be genuine Twitter users who have been conditioned for years to completely trust information from accounts with a checkmark next to their name. And many who didn’t pay close attention ended up being duped, at least temporarily.
“RICOCHET IS RETURNING?? Wait, why the fuck is there an official check mark on this?” one confused user wrote in response to the hoax Valve account. Many others retweeted screenshots of some of the hoax tweets as if they were real.
All of the fake accounts mentioned above (the list is far from exhaustive) are currently suspended for “violation of Twitter rules,” and some were reportedly only active for an hour or less. In an all-staff email on Twitter obtained by Bloomberg late Wednesday, Musk said that “over the next few days, the absolute top priority is to find and suspend all confirmed bots/trolls/spammers.”
On Sunday, after many formerly Verified accounts began changing their names to “Elon Musk,” Twitter’s CEO wrote that he was targeting verified accounts that engaged in “malicious fraud” and that “all Twitter handles impersonation without clearly stating ‘parody'” would be suspended permanently.” This was at least partially contradicted by a statement in May where Musk said that “permanent bans should be very rare and really reserved for accounts that are bots or spam.”
The wave of fake paid verification token accounts comes just a day after Musk said he had “killed” a separate “Official” tag that briefly appeared on many (but not all) Twitter accounts whose visibility was previously verified. “The official record label is still being phased out as part of the @TwitterBlue release – we’re just focusing on government and commercial entities initially,” Twitter CEO Esther Crawford wrote soon after that.
I’m actually laughing
Publicly, at least, Musk expresses his amusement at the many accounts that seek to sow confusion about their purchased checkmarks. When one user pointed out that “[t]The beauty of this is that every account that is confirmed paid $8. Twitter will keep the money and freeze the account,” Musk answered with a set of emoticons including an object and a money bag. In response to another user who apparently complained about fake accounts with purchased tokens, Musk just responded with two crying-laughing emojis.
I can’t imagine why all the advertisers are pulling out of Twitter lmao pic.twitter.com/pg55WXkxhS
– Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) November 9, 2022
But many Twitter followers wonder how official-looking, tick-boasting scam accounts — even ones that are quickly deleted — will affect brands that already show reluctance to buy ads on the platform. “I can’t imagine why all the advertisers are pulling out of Twitter,” Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier tweeted sardonically in response to a fake Nintendo account. Others are I’m kidding about how lost advertiser revenue could easily drown out any extra money Blue subscribers spend buying blue checkmarks.
“Be aware that Twitter is going to do a lot of stupid things in the coming months,” Musk tweeted on Wednesday. “We keep what works and change what doesn’t.”
Enter the conversation…
The creator of the listing image @nintendoofus/Twitter
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