After taking over Twitter and announcing that users can be pay to be "verified" (perhaps without any identification check at all), Elon Musk appears to be slowly learning the hard way why Twitter implemented verification in the first place.
Shortly after taking over the platform, Musk announced that users would be able to get verified for $20 a month, before being haggled down to $8 by author Stephen King.
One problem this raises, as well as making it more difficult to know if you are getting information from a trusted source, is that it makes it more difficult to know if someone is the person who they are claiming to be. If anyone can buy a blue tick (which used to mean that an identification check had taken place), what is to stop someone from purchasing one and then pretending to be someone else?
Impersonation was actually why Twitter started the verification process in the first place. In 2009, baseball manager Tony La Russa sued Twitter, claiming that a fake account in his name and impersonating him had begun posting offensive and derogatory comments. Despite "strong indications" that the account was a parody, Twitter settled the lawsuit, and began work on a verification process to avoid further legal cases. Though many users took it to be a kind of status symbol, the original purpose was to prove that journalists, notable figures and others were who they said they were.
Musk appears to be learning about impersonation the hard way, after a number of blue tick verified Twitter users changed their usernames and profile pics to "Elon Musk" and began parodying him. One user (whose account is currently suspended) tweeted "my wife left me", while another (also suspended) wrote "There is nothing better than waking up and enjoying a fresh, steaming cup of my own urine. Such a tangy way to start the day, and it's scientifically proven to help brain cells grow. If you want to be like me, drink your own pee."
Comedian Kathy Griffin was also suspended after impersonating the world's richest man.
The problem could only get bigger once anyone willing to pay $8 would be able to get that verified tick. Anticipating that very problem, Musk announced on Twitter that "going forward, any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying 'parody' will be permanently suspended".
“Previously, we issued a warning before suspension, but now that we are rolling out widespread verification, there will be no warning. This will be clearly identified as a condition for signing up to Twitter Blue,” he added.
"Any name change at all will cause temporary loss of verified checkmark.”