Twitter pauses paid verifications after users abuse the service to impersonate brands and people


In this photo illustration, the image of Elon Musk is displayed on a computer screen and the twitter logo on a mobile phone in Ankara, Turkiye on October 6, 2022.

Muhammed Selim Korkutata | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Twitter appears to have discontinued its $7.99-per-month Blue subscription service, which allowed people to pay for a verification check after users abused it to impersonate brands and famous people.

Twitter launched the service earlier this week in its iPhone app, allowing users to purchase a checkmark previously used to indicate that an account was verified or official. As of Friday, the iPhone app will no longer show an option to sign up for Twitter Blue.

The rapid shutdown of the service suggests that, at least for now, CEO Elon Musk’s grand plan to generate new revenue from users is not working as expected.

The paid subscription service led to a plethora of pranksters on Twitter creating fake accounts. It made the platform even more ripe for misinformation, and many cheaply obtained ticks were used to impersonate brands, politicians and celebrities with unflattering messages.

A current sales associate at Twitter said the company decided to pull the Twitter Blue verification in response to the wave of impersonators.

The employee, who asked to remain unnamed because they were not authorized to speak on Twitter’s behalf, said an account similar to pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly caused a serious problem when it tweeted: “We are excited to announce that insulin is now is free.”

The tweet remained on the social media platform for hours before it was taken down. The real Eli Lilly account tweeted later: “We apologize to those who received a misleading message from a fake Lilly account.”

Eli Lilly’s stock price plummeted after the fake message was posted, and so did other pharmaceutical companies, including AbbVie, which was also mimicked on Twitter. At the time, major stock indices were positive amid a market rally.

An impersonator was also pilloried Tesla, Elon Musk’s electric car maker with the blue checkmark for paid subscribers. An account with the handle that appeared as “@TeslaReal” wrote a series of disparaging tweets, one of which said, “Frankly, the 53% drop in stock price is not fading.[sic] U.S. If anyone knows anything about Crashing, it’s us.”

The effect of so many changes to the Twitter platform is a major problem for advertisers, some of whom have already paused their spending there.

In addition, some users who have already paid for the service said their recently acquired blue ticks have disappeared from their accounts.

A Twitter spokesperson was not immediately available for comment. Musk was not immediately available for comment.

The rollback of Twitter Blue Verified comes at a time when Musk and Alex Spiro, who now serves as Twitter’s top attorney, are working to reassure employees, advertisers and regulators that they will abide by all the laws and terms of a previous FTC act. consent decision.

Elon Musk wrote in a company-wide email obtained by CNBC Thursday evening: “I cannot stress enough that Twitter will do whatever it takes to abide by both the letter and spirit of the FTC consent decree. reading otherwise is absolutely inaccurate. The same is true for all other government regulatory affairs where Twitter operates.”

Spiro said in another email that followed that his team met with FTC regulators on Thursday and that Twitter will soon have its “first upcoming compliance check” with the agency. He stressed that Twitter itself, not “persons who work at Twitter” would be held liable for any violations.

As NBC News previously reported, an exodus of Twitter executives since Musk took over has included the departure of Yoel Roth, the company’s head of trust and security, and head of information security, Lea Kessner, and many others involved in infrastructure. , trust and security.

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