Twitter started suspending accounts “engaged in impersonation” after Elon Musk, the platform’s new owner and CEO, announced that all fake accounts without the “parody” label would be immediately banned from the platform. The move came after a flood of people changed their display names to match his.
“Going forward, any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying ‘parody’ will be permanently suspended,” Musk tweeted. “Previously, we issued a warning before suspension, but now that we are rolling out widespread verification, there will be no warning.”
“Any name change at all will cause temporary loss of verified checkmark,” he added, referring to the blue check mark next to people’s names, which indicates that their account is authentic and not an impersonation.
Several Twitter users, some of whom are verified on the platform, started changing their display names to “Elon Musk” after the billionaire completed his US $ 44 billion (NZ $ 74b) purchase of the platform in late October. Many, posing as Musk, mocked his controversial announcement that Twitter would soon charge users US $ 8 per month for verification.
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Among those apparently suspended from Twitter for changing their display names to “Elon Musk” was comedian Kathy Griffin, who, under Musk’s moniker, urged Americans to vote for Democrats in the midterm elections.
“I’ve decided that voting blue for their choice is only right,” she wrote shortly before she had her account suspended. YouTuber Ethan Klein was also appeared to be suspended from the platform after he joined those impersonating Musk.
Griffin’s fans called Twitter’s move a crackdown on freedom of speech and parody, using the hashtag #freekathy to criticize the platform’s new policy. Later on Sunday, Musk, who is the world’s richest person, tweeted that Griffin could have her account di lei back if she paid up.
“If she really wants her account back, she can have it,” Musk wrote. “For $ 8.”
Griffin, meanwhile, appears to have moved on to other platforms.
Soon after she was locked out of her Twitter account, she wrote on Instagram: “I’m trending on Twitter. Long story. “
She also joined Mastodon, the six-year-old social platform that has steadily gained new followers since Musk’s Twitter takeover.
On Monday, Mastodon’s founder, Eugen Rochko, said it was “pretty cool” that the social network had reached more than 1 million monthly active users and that the network had acquired almost half a million new users since October 27 – the day of Musk’s Twitter takeover.
Last week, Mastodon acknowledged its servers are “under very heavy load,” a result of what it said was an “extreme spike in user numbers.”
Twitter’s crackdown on parody accounts is a long line of new policy changes introduced after Musk bought the platform.
Shortly after taking over the platform, he fired several longtime Twitter executives and announced mass layoffs at the company.