BOSTON (AP) — Elon Musk tweeted Sunday that Twitter will permanently suspend any account on the social media platform that impersonates another.
The platform’s new owner issued the warning after some celebrities changed their Twitter display names — not their account names — and tweeted as ‘Elon Musk’ in reaction to the billionaire’s decision to offer verified accounts to all comers for $8 month as he simultaneously laid off a big chunk of the workforce.
“Going forward, any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying “parody” will be permanently suspended,” Musk wrote. While Twitter previously issued warnings before suspensions, now that it is rolling out “widespread verification, there will be no warning.”
In fact, “any name change at all” would compel the temporary loss of a verified checkmark, the world’s richest man said.
Comedian Kathy Griffin had her account suspended Sunday after she switched her screen name to Musk. She told a Bloomberg reporter that she had also used his profile photo.
“I guess not ALL the content moderators were let go? Lol,” Griffin joked afterward on Mastodon, an alternative social media platform where she set up an account last week.
Actor Valerie Bertinelli had similarly appropriated Musk’s screen name — posting a series of tweets in support of Democratic candidates on Saturday before switching back to her true name. “Okey-dokey. I’ve had fun and I think I made my point,” she tweeted afterwards.
Before the stunt, Bertinelli noted the original purpose of the blue verification checkmark. It was granted free of charge to people whose identity Twitter employees had confirmed; with journalists accounting for a big portion of recipients. “It simply meant your identity was verified. Scammers would have a harder time impersonating you,” Bertinelli noted.
“That no longer applies. Good luck out there!” she added.
The $8 verified accounts are Musk’s way of democratizing the service, he claims. On Saturday, a Twitter update for iOS devices listed on Apple’s app store said users who “sign up now” for the new “Twitter Blue with verification” can get the blue check next to their names “just like the celebrities, companies and politicians you already follow.”
It said the service would first be available in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK. However, it was not available Sunday and there was no indication when it would go live. A Twitter employ, Esther Crawford, told The Associated Press it is coming “soon but it hasn’t launched yet.”