A number of high-profile, verified users have had their Twitter accounts suspended over the last few days after seemingly breaking, but also not breaking, some new rules instituted by the site’s new owner, Elon Musk.
Musk, who bought the social media platform despite not knowing what to do with it, how to run it or being able to afford it, began his tenure last month by celebrating the return of free speech, quickly reminding anyone that the people championing “free speech” the loudest are rarely interested in any such thing.
One of the big reasons his brief reign has proven so unpopular—along with mass (possibly illegal) firings, uncertainty over paid membership costs and just general Divorced Guy ramblings—has been his promised overhaul of Twitter’s verification process, which grants public figures (and those working in lines of work rife with impersonation, like journalism) a little blue tick next to their names. It’s a tiny little thing designed to simply let the masses know you are actually the person you’re claiming to be, but for brainworm reasons Free Speech and MAGA weirdos have spent years obsessing over them, elevating an administrative feature into something they think is a discriminatory, digital caste system.
As such, one of Musk’s first orders of business as Twitter owner was to float the idea of replacing the current verification process—one where Twitter manually verifies with your people/company that you’re actually you—with...a system where anyone can pay $8 for a blue tick (a move that has since been delayed until after the US midterm elections).
Because this is such an astoundingly stupid (and dangerous!) idea, many verified users have been spending the last few days changing their usernames and profile pics to the same ones used by Musk himself, in clear and obvious examples of what’s going to happen on a global scale should the verification process be overhauled in this way.
Musk, wildly in over his head and having spent the last few days flailing around like a substitute teacher who has lost the class, sought to cut this practice—simply a taste of what’s to come!—out earlier today when he said “Going forward, any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying ‘parody’ will be permanently suspended”.
Popular Australian satire website The Chaser appeared to be one of the victims of these new guidelines, their account being locked down not long after changing their name to resemble Musk’s, despite clearly following this rule and marking their account as parody (they also didn’t even change their name to ‘Elon Musk’, they changed it to ‘Elom Musk’).
Their account has however since been restored, with the new name ‘Elon Musk Fondles Dogs’:
They’re not alone. Ethan Klein has met a similar fate. And Kathy Griffin. Even Chipzel, who is not only a huge chiptune artist but has also done the soundtracks for games like Super Hexagon and Dicey Dungeons, found her own account suspended today, having earlier changed her name to ‘🌈elon musk “parody”’, which again does not violate the rule as Musk himself stated it.
UPDATE 11:59pm - Chipzel’s account has been kinda restored, though with this warning page appearing before viewers can access her feed:
What both do appear to violate is a different rule he hastily introduced straight afterwards, which incredibly seeks to stop verified users from changing their display name (Tweets will always display two names, a display name you can edit and your actual Twitter username, which you cannot). In a follow-up Tweet, he says “Any name change at all will cause temporary loss of verified checkmark”, which given the frequency with which people do this—for everything from sports events to Halloween to the holiday season—is incredibly funny:
Former NFL punter (and Kotaku commenter) Chris Kluwe is another verified user who has been suspended, having also changed his profile pic and display name to match Musk’s (along with tweeting some mean things about Tesla cars). That’s a pretty heavy-handed rule just to try and stop people making fun of you on the internet!
If only Twitter had some kind of existing verification process that could easily sort out which accounts were real and which were fake. Ah well!
It’s weird that all these accounts were fully locked down, instead of just temporarily losing their verification like he clearly stated, but with half of Twitter’s staff fired and the other half burned to a crisp I guess mix-ups, hastily-implemented policy decisions, not knowing which hare-brained idea you actually got suspended for and billionaires wailing “I’m not owned! I’m not owned!!” are going to be the norm for the foreseeable future.
I’ve contacted Twitter for clarification on just which rule the affected accounts broke, and will update if they can ever find out and get back to me.
UPDATE 2, 1:25am ET November 7: Here’s a notification another verified user received, spelling out the ways in which their account details were in violation of new Twitter rules, and the steps required to have their suspension lifted (basically delete the Elon profile pic and name):