Elon Musk bans impersonation without a parody poster on Twitter, raising questions about commitment to free speech

In this photo illustration, an image of Elon Musk on a computer screen and the Twitter logo are displayed on a mobile phone in Ankara, Turkey on October 6, 2022.

Mohamed Selim Korkouta | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

After several verified Twitter users and celebrities changed their accounts to mimic the social network’s new owner, Elon Musk, he called for a swift change in policy enforcement.

Musk wrote on Sunday that, from now on, Twitter will now permanently suspend impersonator accounts without warning if they are not clearly labeled as parody.

In a series of tweets on Sunday, it appeared that Tesla, SpaceX and now the CEO of Twitter had changed his mind about the permanent ban, writing:

to go forwardAny Twitter that handles impersonation without explicitly defining “parody” will be permanently suspended

previously, we issued a warning before hanging, but now that we’re starting to implement validation at scale, there will be no warning. This will be clearly stated as a condition of subscribing to Twitter Blue.

No name change At all it will cause a temporary loss of the checked checkmark.”

In May, after agreeing to buy Twitter, Musk argued against the lifetime ban and said he would overturn the ban on Donald Trump. Twitter had banned the former president in the wake of the January 6, 2021 rebellion at the US Capitol, fearing that Trump’s tweets would lead to more violence. Trump said he will not be returning to Twitter.

Before Musk completed his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter on October 28, Specific rules Users may not “impersonate individuals, groups, or organizations to mislead, confuse, or deceive others, or use a false identity in a way that disrupts others’ Twitter experience.”

The company previously asked users involved in the parody to “distinguish themselves Both Their account name and bio.

Twitter previously said it would take any of three actions in response to impersonators, including: “profile moderation,” “temporary suspension,” or “permanent suspension.” The platform does not usually go through a permanent ban of a user account for impersonation prior to the Musk takeover.

As of Sunday evening, Twitter had not updated its terms of service to reflect Musk’s direction.

The decision to “President Tweet”, as he jokingly calls himself, has sparked controversy and horror, in part because Musk describes himself as the absolute freedom-of-speech.

Last week, he dismissed activists, including civil rights leaders who called on advertisers to stop spending on Twitter until Musk demonstrated that the company could deliver on its promises of trust and security under his leadership.

When Musk appeared at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters on October 27, trolls and online fanatics raided the social network, polluting it with a flood of racist adjectives and other hate speech. The researchers said that Twitter took appropriate action in response, but that it should have anticipated the raid and tried to prevent it.

Verification changes

After this challenge, Musk implemented severe staff cuts on Twitter, laying off about 3,700 people from various departments including firing content moderation, and other trust and safety experts. The main focus for him is to redesign the platform subscription product and verification system.

The verification, in the form of a blue check, was intended for public figures such as politicians and celebrities who are very likely to be impersonated by bad actors. Now, Musk plans to make the check mark available to anyone who pays $7.99 a month for Twitter Blue, a subscription product.

The verification changes have inspired an outpouring of mockery and imitation by those who believe it will complicate, rather than help, Twitter users to find good information and authentic accounts on the platform.

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One comedian who impersonated Musk over the weekend, Kathy Griffin, was suspended on Sunday. She changed her show name to Elon Musk and her profile picture to look like him, then tweeted, “After so many spirited discussions with the females in my life, I’ve decided that voting blue for their choice is just right (they are also sexy females, btw) “.

Actor Rich Somer, best known for his role as Harry Crane on AMC’s “Mad Men,” has also had his account suspended on AMC after he changed the show’s name and profile picture to impersonate Musk.

Somer pretended to speak for Musk on Twitter, joking Friday, “I’m in my head. Can the 44 billion of you send $1 each on Twitter, care about me?” He later added, more wistfully, “Okay, time to hire Plan B because they make me keep Twitter. Does anyone know any advertisers of, like, some kind of racism” and not actual racism!! Just an ad ppl who they are, you know, curious about what it’s about (racism). “

Twitter and Elon Musk did not immediately respond to a request for comment or confirm whether Sommer and Griffin have been permanently banned.

Others impersonating Musk include actress Valerie Bertinelli, who changed her show name on Saturday to Elon Musk and then posted tweets urging her followers to vote for Democratic candidates.

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Sarah Silverman, comedian, writer, and host of “I Love You, America” ​​has also changed her show name and avatar to look like Elon Musk. She then appeared, speaking in a musky voice, writing a crack of events, “I’m divorced to freedom of speech and I eat breakfast every day.”

Bertinelli changed her profile again before Twitter took any apparent action against her account. On Sunday morning she wrote, “Okie-duki I had fun and I think I made my point. I’m not the ‘popular’ type. Everyone! xo”

Silverman remained on the platform, no longer using her own image and show name until after her account was closed by Twitter. In a message to her 12 million fans and followers listed there on Sunday, Silverman wrote: “1) 9 days ago, 2) yesterday 3) today. We had fun,” accompanied by three photos.

One of the photos referenced a promise Musk made to his followers on October 28, writing that “comedy is now legal on Twitter,” right after he bought the platform. Others showed her a joke tweet, and that it led to a restriction.

Musk has defended himself against critics who see the guidance of his new app as inconsistent with his free speech values ​​on Sunday. He wrote: “My commitment to freedom of expression extends even to not banning the account that tracks my plane, even though it represents an immediate risk to personal safety.”

Undergraduate student Jack Sweeney created a Twitter account using publicly available data that automatically updates to show where Musk’s frequent flights are in his private jet. Musk pressured Sweeney and even offered to pay him to take down the flight tracker, but that was stay on twitter Until now.

On Sunday, after calling for impersonators to be banned without a parody poster, Musk also tried to shift the focus away from free speech. He wrote, “Twitter needs to become the most accurate source of information around the world. This is our mission.”

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