Twitter struggles to keep up with ‘verified’ impersonator accounts


Twitter is struggling to keep up with impersonator accounts following new CEO Elon Musk’s revamp of the platform’s verification system. 

Users have noticed a wave of accounts easily being able to impersonate celebrities by changing the name on their account and paying to get a blue tick next to it. 

For example, Twitter user @nlntendodoofus was able to change their account name to ‘Nintendo of America’ and get a blue tick to make it look official. 

Before being suspended, the fake Nintendo account tweeted an image of the Japanese firm’s mascot Mario with its middle finger up. 

Meanwhile, a LeBron James parody account claimed the basketball player was ‘officially requesting a trade’ from his current side LA Lakers to another team. 

And another account fooled users into thinking it was former US President Donald Trump simply tweeted: ‘This is why Elon Musk’s plan doesn’t work.’ 

Other people impersonated were former President George W Bush – who appeared to post a distasteful tweet about Iraq – and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Jesus Christ, an existing parody account on Twitter, was also able to get verified with a tick, making it look like our lord and saviour really is now on Twitter. 

Although many of the tweets have a funny side, experts are concerned Musk’s changes are making misinformation on the platform even worse. 

Twitter user @nlntendodoofus was able to change its account name to ‘Nintendo of America’ and get a blue tick next to it to make it look official – and then posted an offensive image, before being suspended

One user was able to impersonate George W Bush and post an offensive tweet about Iraq. Impersonating famous people is nothing new at Twitter - but Musk's changes mean these impersonators can get blue ticks

One user was able to impersonate George W Bush and post an offensive tweet about Iraq. Impersonating famous people is nothing new at Twitter – but Musk’s changes mean these impersonators can get blue ticks 

Meanwhile, a LeBron James parody account claimed the basketball player was 'officially requesting a trade' from his current side LA Lakers to another team

Meanwhile, a LeBron James parody account claimed the basketball player was ‘officially requesting a trade’ from his current side LA Lakers to another team

The second coming? Jesus Christ, an existing parody account on Twitter, was also able to get verified with a tick, making it look like our lord and saviour really is now on Twitter

The second coming? Jesus Christ, an existing parody account on Twitter, was also able to get verified with a tick, making it look like our lord and saviour really is now on Twitter

WHAT DOES TWITTER BLUE TICK MEAN? 

On Twitter, the definition of verification and the accompanying blue checkmark is ‘changing’, Elon Musk’s firm says.

Until recently, Twitter used the blue checkmark to indicate active, notable, and authentic accounts of public interest that Twitter had independently verified based on certain requirements. 

Now the blue checkmark indicates an account has an active subscription to Twitter Blue, its monthly subscription service.

Twitter explains: ‘Accounts that receive the blue checkmark as part of a Twitter Blue subscription will not undergo review to confirm that they meet the active, notable and authentic criteria that was used in the previous process.’ 

Musk’s changes are still rolling out, so right now a blue tick can still mean that an account was verified under the previous verification criteria. 

However, with time the system will transition entirely so that a blue tick solely means a Twitter account holder is paying for Twitter Blue. 

Before Musk’s takeover, Twitter Blue was already available in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

As of November 9, 2022, Twitter Blue is also now available for UK users on iOS. Rollout to UK Android users is expected to follow. 

Musk said on Thursday: ‘Rollout of new verified Blue is intentionally limited just to iOS in a few countries with very little promotion. As we iron out issues, we will expand worldwide on all platforms.’ 

Impersonating famous people is nothing new at Twitter, but Musk’s changes mean these impersonators can get blue ticks and make their fake posts seem more believable. 

Most of the fake accounts with blue ticks appear to have been suspended, although some were up for several hours. Twitter Support said it is ‘aggressively going after impersonation and deception’. 

Another fake account impersonating The Carter Center claimed that 98-year-old former US President Jimmy Carter had died – fake news that was then retweeted. This fake account, now suspended, didn’t have a blue tick, however. 

New Twitter CEO Elon Musk has said users can expect to see ‘lots of dumb things’ on the site in the coming months – and this appears to be one of them.  

Since taking over Twitter at the end of last month, one of the biggest changes Musk has made has been to the social media platform’s verification system. 

Previously, the blue tick at the end of an account name indicated that an account belonging to someone of public interest – such as a celebrity, politician or journalist – has been verified and is authentic.  

The blue tick became a helpful visual indicator to let other users know that an account marked the official home of the user it claimed to represent, and not an imitator. 

But, as Twitter’s recently modified help page now explains, all this is changing following Musk’s $44 billion takeover in October. 

Now, anybody can get the blue tick next to their name to show that their account is verified as long as they pay $7.99 (£6.99) for Twitter Blue, the platform’s monthly subscription service that gives access to several exclusive features. 

The problem is, Twitter users can now change their account name and photo so it resembles an official account – such as Nintendo America or Donald Trump – and get a blue tick next to it, as long as they’re paying for Twitter Blue. 

Twitter is still transitioning from the old meaning of the blue tick to the new meaning, so there are still many accounts with the blue tick that belong to users verified under the new system who are yet to pay for Twitter Blue. 

Twitter Blue is also yet to roll out globally, although it’s just launched for iOS users in the UK.  

'Them thangs thangin': Other people impersonated were former mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani. The real Rudy Giuliani Twitter account has the handle @RudyGiuliani; this impersonator has a slightly different handle, but the blue tick makes it seem legit

‘Them thangs thangin’: Other people impersonated were former mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani. The real Rudy Giuliani Twitter account has the handle @RudyGiuliani; this impersonator has a slightly different handle, but the blue tick makes it seem legit

An account that fooled users into thinking it was former US President Donald Trump tweeted: 'This is why Elon Musk's plan doesn't work'

An account that fooled users into thinking it was former US President Donald Trump tweeted: ‘This is why Elon Musk’s plan doesn’t work’

WHAT IS TWITTER BLUE?

In 2021, Twitter officially rolled out its subscription service Twitter Blue in four countries – the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. 

Twitter Blue, which is available for iOS, Android and the web, charges users a monthly fee to access exclusive features, including ‘Undo Tweet’, which gives users a chance to cancel tweets if they have second thoughts.

Twitter Blue also includes Bookmarks, which allows users to save individual tweets into folders, and Reader Mode, which converts threads of tweets into an article-like view. 

Twitter increased the price of Twitter Blue from $2.99 per month to $4.99 per month back in July. 

On October 30, 2022, it was reported that new Twitter owner Elon Musk wants to increase the price of Twitter Blue from $4.99 to $20 a month, and make verified ‘ticks’ a Twitter Blue feature.

Musk later confirmed his plans but said Twitter Blue would cost $7.99 per month. 

Musk has previously said that changing the verification process and letting more users get blue ticks will help democratise Twitter and cut down on the spam and bot accounts on the site. 

Prior to his takeover, Musk has previously said there are ‘so many “verified” scam crypto bots’ on Twitter.

He also said that getting verified on Twitter should be ‘far more widespread’ and should show that someone is who they claim to be, whether they’re unknown members of the public or famous celebrities.  

James Bore, tech expert and security consultant at Bores Group, disagreed with Musk’s assertion that bots were verified on Twitter.  

‘The shift of verification from a mechanism to prevent impersonation to a way to raise funds was always going to cause this,’ he told MailOnline.

‘While there’s been some suggestion it was to help prevent exploitation by bots, that was never really plausible since bots weren’t verified in the first case, and the only way the new subscription tick would help prevent them is if everyone except the bots was verified.

‘What it’s done instead is made it trivially easy for people to impersonate, using a trusted check mark. 

‘Now, there’s no need for a malicious actor to even compromise an account – just to pay their $8 and use a useful name for their purposes to benefit from a Twitter-verified impersonation.’ 

Bore pointed out that Musk’s own Twitter account was used to post a crypto scam during a massive security breach in 2020.

Elon Musk (pictured) has previously said that changing the verification process and letting more users get to more people will help democratise Twitter and cut down on the spam and bot accounts on the site

Elon Musk (pictured) has previously said that changing the verification process and letting more users get to more people will help democratise Twitter and cut down on the spam and bot accounts on the site

Although many of the tweets have a funny side, experts are concerned Musk's changes are making misinformation on Twitter even worse (file photo)

Although many of the tweets have a funny side, experts are concerned Musk’s changes are making misinformation on Twitter even worse (file photo)

‘You would have thought he might know better about the dangers of allowing impersonation – but apparently not,’ he said. 

Musk appears to be haphazardly chopping and changing with the Twitter experience on the fly, much to the exasperation of users. 

On Wednesday, he pulled the plug on the new gray ‘Official’ label – intended as a replacement to the original purpose of the blue tick – just hours after it rolled out. 

The grey badge was reserved for high-profile accounts, such as media outlets including the Daily Mail, to show they were real, but Musk said he’d ‘just killed it’. 

Twitter's latest approach to verification ¿ offering grey ticks and an 'Official' label to high-profile accounts ¿ has begun rolling out on the platform

Twitter’s latest approach to verification – offering grey ticks and an ‘Official’ label to high-profile accounts – has begun rolling out on the platform

Tweeting about the change, Twitter’s director of product management, Esther Crawford, said: ‘Not all previously verified accounts will get the ‘Official’ label and the label is not available for purchase.

‘Accounts that will receive it include government accounts, commercial companies, business partners, major media outlets, publishers and some public figures.

‘The new Twitter Blue does not include ID verification – it’s an opt-in, paid subscription that offers a blue checkmark and access to select features.’

Some industry commentators had argued the new double-verification process would only make the system more confusing, before Musk got rid of it. 

THE LONG ROAD TO ELON MUSK’S TWITTER TAKEOVER – AND THE CHAOS THAT FOLLOWED 

Musk’s takeover of Twitter all began on April 4, when Musk disclosed a 9.2 per cent Twitter stake, becoming the company’s largest shareholder.

The world’s richest person then agreed to join Twitter’s board, only to balk at the last minute and offer to buy the company instead for $54.20 per share.

Twitter accepted the offer later in April, but the following month Musk said the deal is on hold pending a review of bot accounts. 

His lawyers then accused Twitter of not complying with his requests for information on the subject.

The acrimony resulted in Musk telling Twitter on July 8 he was terminating the deal, and four days later, Twitter sued Musk to force him to complete the acquisition.

Twitter accused Musk of buyer’s remorse, arguing he wanted out of the deal because he thought he overpaid. 

On October 4, Musk performed another U-turn, offering to complete the deal as promised. He managed to do that one day ahead of a deadline to avoid a trial. 

Since becoming owner, Musk – who also runs Tesla and SpaceX – has wasted no time making significant changes to Twitter, including firing top execs and dissolving the board of directors. 

He’s also confirmed going to make Twitter users pay $8 per month to have a blue tick next to their account name, calling the current ‘lords and peasants’ system ‘bulls**t’. 

Musk previously mulled a $20 per month blue tick verification fee, but appeared to lower the cost following criticism from horror author Stephen King;, among others. 

Musk has also already specified his intention to form a content moderation council with ‘widely diverse viewpoints’.

‘No major content decisions or account reinstatements will happen before that council convenes,’ he said.  

He has also reportedly brought more than 50 of his Tesla staff who were mostly working on the electric car company’s autopilot team to review and work on code for Twitter.   



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