Musk announces Twitter ban on unlabeled parody after celebrities impersonate him

Aurich Lawson | Steady broadcast

Twitter owner and CEO Elon Musk yesterday announced a strict ban on unlabeled parody accounts, a move he is taking after many Twitter users impersonated Musk. “Going forward, all Twitter accounts that engage in impersonation without clearly specifying the ‘parody’ will be permanently suspended,” musk wrote in a tweet thread.

Musk’s announcement came as a number of high-profile Twitter users changed their display name and profile picture to match Musk’s. Comedian Sarah Silverman posted a screenshot stating that his account has been temporarily locked for breaking Twitter rules after he tweeted using Musk’s name and profile picture. Silverman’s tweet impersonating Musk said, “I’m a free speech absolutist and I eat doody for breakfast everyday.”

Comedian Kathy Griffin’s account has been suspended under similar circumstances. As Silverman noted, these suspensions occurred about a week after Musk wrote in a Tweeter that “comedy is now legal on Twitter”.

Because Musk said the unlabeled parody rule applies to “all Twitter handles,” it seems unverified accounts should follow it too. Banning all unlabeled parodies might be stricter than the current Twitter to reign which says, “You may not impersonate individuals, groups, or organizations to mislead, confuse, or deceive others, or use a false identity in any way that disrupts others’ experience of Twitter.”

But even the existing rule, which was in place before Musk offers to buy Twitter, parody accounts “should clearly state that the user is not affiliated with the topic of the account.” While Musk’s statement may not differ much from the current rule, it does suggest that Twitter will take a tougher line against unlabeled parody than before.

Some accounts clearly marked as parodies of Elon Musk have also been suspended, According to Chad Loder, which studies online extremism. This includes an account with over 2.3 million followers, which was tweet like a parody of Musk and publish articles on Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell before being suspended.

Musk says rule targets ‘malicious deception’

Verified people who change their display name, even without impersonating someone, would also face a “temporary loss” of their blue check mark, Musk wrote. “We previously issued a warning before the suspension, but now that we are rolling out widespread verification, there will be no warning,” Musk wrote yesterday. “This will be clearly marked as a requirement to sign up for Twitter Blue. Any name changes will result in the temporary loss of the verified tick.”

As previously reported, Twitter, led by Musk, plans to increase the price of its Twitter Blue subscription from $5 to $8 per month and make account verification conditional on subscription. Twitter Blue’s changes would be delayed until after the U.S. midterm elections on Tuesday, but could be implemented later this week.

musk too wrote yesterday that it is acceptable “to use a pseudonym. The high-level principle is simply that verified users cannot engage in malicious deception”.

On the Griffin suspension, Musk wrote that “she was suspended for pretending to be a comedian” and that “if she really wants her account back, she can have it”. Musk did not otherwise refer directly to his impersonators when announcing the parody rule, but he wrote, “My commitment to free speech even goes so far as not to ban the account following my plane, even if it poses a direct risk to personal safety.” It’s a reference to the Elonjet account, whose creator said Musk offered him $5,000 to deactivate the account in 2021.

A few months before finalizing the Twitter acquisition, Musk said “permanent bans should be extremely rare and really only for accounts that are bots or spam.” He also said at the time that he would reinstate former President Donald Trump’s account.

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