Verified Impersonators Have Made a Mess Out of Twitter’s $8 Blue Checkmarks

Verified Impersonators Have Made a Mess Out of Twitter’s $8 Blue Checkmarks

Twitter owner Elon Musk seems to be taking the Silicon Valley adage of “move fast and break things” to a new level of speed and destruction. The drama has been most apparent in the platform’s paid verification system that rolled out this past week and has already proved a massive headache for Twitter and an all out shit show for regular users.

After first announcing plans for an $US8 paid verification system, Twitter has gone through a whirlwind of multiple renditions of the system before arriving at its current incarnation. Just this week Twitter tried adding a grey “Official” checkmark for certain government officials, media, and major brands before quickly pulling the feature. In the latest version of verification, everybody gets a blue checkmark, but if you click on the icon in each Twitter profile it will either say whether they were verified because they are a public identity, or if they coughed up the cash for the privilege.

And with documents showing recent layoffs have taken chunks out of Twitter’s engineering capacity, these constant changes and updates to existing systems must be exhausting for those who still remain at the company.

As a reminder, verified accounts were originally introduced to stop users from impersonating public figures. The platform had already been sued for facilitating these fakes, so Musk has to walk a fine line between monetising the blue checkmark while claiming the site is safe for public figures, and most importantly, advertisers. If only they could get Musk himself to take the situation a bit more seriously.

Those who purchase the blue checkmark show they have “an active subscription to Twitter Blue,” but their tweets also now show up in Twitter’s new verified section on Twitter’s notifications. Those iOS users (the feature is unavailable to Android or users) also allows users to bookmark folders, add themes, and allows users to undo tweets.

This system has obvious drawbacks, especially because it’s not clear at first glance which accounts were previously verified before Musk came on, and which were bought. On Thursday, Twitter silently changed its Twitter Blue policy to stop any accounts created after Nov. 9 to subscribe to Twitter Blue. Those who purchase their check are also unable to change their display name, and the company claims they will be implementing a new process to change names “soon.”

Two Twitter users, Will Seagar and Walter Lim, have even created a Chrome Extension called “Eight Dollars” that will modify the Twitter verification to make it immediately apparent who was officially verified and who paid for their checkmark.

Meanwhile, there are also lingering accounts on Twitter that have been routinely cited for hate and attack campaigns that have purchased their way to the blue checkmark. As of reporting, many renowned ultra right-wing Twitter accounts remain up and verified, although some have been hid with warnings that “this profile may include potentially sensitive content.” These accounts are especially dangerous, as the verification may make their messages gain even more attention.

Fake Elon Musk shills for crypto

Ever since the multi-billionaire took over the platform there have been a rash of accounts trying to appear like Musk. Some of them have taken over account names like @e1on_musk or something similar, using the name and photo to tweet out cryptocurrency scams.

If you, like us, pay regular attention to Musk’s Twitter replies, they’re already full of people begging for attention with very spammy and rather scammy crypto promotions, but now these accounts are able to buy themselves a checkmark, which may make it even easier to impersonate Twitter’s “Chief Twit.”

Of course, some fake accounts were ready to take the piss out of Musk, such as @elon_rnusk which said a new “Twitter Gold” would give users “yearly family vacations and nightly dinners with me. If your name is Grimes. Please come back. I love you.”

Twitter itself was also turned into a shill

It didn’t take long for accounts to start imitating the official Twitter page. Just like Musk, the page was apparently used to promote crypto-related scams with obvious malicious links. The account seemed to have over 26,000 followers before it was eventually removed.

George W. Bush believes he can get his $US8 back

Former President George W. Bush first caught a whiff of the bad vibes with a false verified account, with one account @GeorgeWBushs (sic) who posted “I miss killing Iraqis.” Before the account was removed, it’s profile also included the words “so what if I did 9/11.”

The account was notable because it expressly mentioned the $US8 paid verification. They wrote “Y’all are missing the point about the $US8. It’s a small price to make this app completely unusable and I’m assuming he [referring to Musk] is going to quickly learn we can get refunds from the credit cards we used if he suspends us prior to a month.”

According to Twitter, there are no refunds available for Twitter Blue subscriptions.

Still, ex-UK Prime Minister Tony Blair under the name @MPTony Blair seems to be on the same page with Bush, at the very least, at least according to a verified profile.

Mario flips the bird at Blue Bird

An account @n1ntendoofus calling itself Nintendo of America posted a picture of its main mascot giving the finger to Twitter and, we have to guess, any number of goombas he is ready to stomp on. When a user replied “Mario would never do that,” referring to Mario’s new explicit gesture, the fake Nintendo account replied “well he did.”

According to The Verge, the account was up for nearly two hours before it was finally taken down.

Pope Francis sells indulgences at $US8 a pop

The account @Realpontifex called themselves Pope Francis and told its users “the wicked may pose as the righteous and lay snares to trap the unwary. Social media has worsened this phenomenon.” Funnily enough, a verified account claiming to be former Pope John Paul I exclaimed that he was “murdered by the Mafia and Vatican Bank,” which is a noted conspiracy theory surrounding the deceased head of the Catholic Church.

O.J. Simpson and Dave Chappelle turn a new leaf

It’s always nice to see folks that have been long been lambasted in the media turn around and apologise. Unfortunately, fake accounts for President Joe Biden also came onto the scene as evidenced by the screenshotted Tweets. Ben Shapiro, a right-wing troll, was also ready to talk “facts and logic” about his genetalia, according to another verified account.

“America’s Mayor” knows “them thangs thangin”

Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York City turned melting hound for former President Donald Trump, has spent all his previous goodwill and energy on chasing the big lie. Though apparently, according to a verified Twitter under his name, he’s also up on the hip lingo saying “that thing be thangin’” (Am I so out of touch with the kids these days I had to look up where that was from? You bet your arse).

Although this fake Giuliani also apparently won’t talk about the “big stinky doo doo” he made on Air Force 1, so it’s not like humour has moved too far ahead of my own time.

Libs of TikTok, right-wing anti-trans group, gets verified

Screenshot: Twitter
Screenshot: Twitter

There have also been multiple accounts that weren’t previous verified that have bought their way into the “lords” of blue checkmarks. Libs of TikTok, a high-profile right-wing harassment group that’s often cited by the likes of The Daily Caller and Fox News, bought its verification and now stands proud in the echelons of other, actual legitimate news operations.

Libs of TikTok is a major force in right-wing circle’s that’s still shaping the conservative narrative around transgendered people and other LGBTQ folks as well as drag performers.

Similarly, the account Gays Against Groomers, which is also working against the trans community by spreading misinformation, has also been verified under the new $US8 ($11) system.