Twitter parodies mock Musk's changes but also present misinformation threat

Elon Musk's takeover has been unpopular with some. Credit: AP

Twitter users have exploited the new paid verification system implemented by Elon Musk to make parodies of famous people and businesses.

The parodies have mostly been in jest, but some have been critical of the people or organisations they were pretending to be and others risk spreading misinformation.

Mr Musk has repeatedly threatened to ban parody accounts that are not clearly labelled as parodies since taking over.

A parody Tesla account. Credit: Twitter

But this seemingly hasn't stopped many people from quickly having their moment of fame by buying verification and setting up their mock account before being suspended.

By Friday, Twitter appeared to have disabled the ability to buy a blue tick, despite only making it available on Thursday.

Parody accounts sweep Twitter

Several accounts popped up on Thursday pretending to be someone else and fooling many with their purchased verification tick.

Some were tongue-in-cheek, while others were critical of what or who they were pretending to be.

A parody of the late Apple founder. Credit: Twitter

Two of the most popular were fake accounts of George W Bush and Tony Blair.

The Bush account tweeted he "misses killing Iraqis" with the Blair account agreeing.

The Blair account was popular for several hours, with the user behind it even noting it was hard to believe they had not been banned quickly.

As of Friday, both accounts had been suspended.

Other parodies included Nestle, Lockheed Martin, the Pope, BP, US Senator Ted Cruz and late Apple founder Steve Jobs.

Even Tesla, which is owned by Elon Musk, was parodied.Although many people found the parodies amusing, they also presented a misinformation risk.

A parody of BP. Credit: Twitter

US-based PR strategist, Max Burns, said he had seen fake accounts with the verified blue tick badge bought through Twitter Blue posing as support accounts for real airlines. Mr Burns said he saw tricksters asking Twitter users seeking help from the airlines to direct message the fake accounts instead.

“How long until a prankster takes a real passenger’s ticket information and cancels their flight? Or takes their credit card info and goes on a spending spree?” he said.

“It will only take one major incident for every airline to bail on Twitter as a source of customer engagement.”

Mr Burns later said that Mr Musk blocked him on Twitter when he asked if the new Twitter owner had any comment to make on the incident.

It also presents a problem for Twitter itself - with many high-profile businesses being impersonatedm it may speed up advertisers' departure from the website.

A parody account of defence company Lockheed Martin. Credit: Twitter

Several companies have already said they were pausing advertising until they could see what Mr Musk's Twitter looks like.

For now, if you are engaging with Twitter and concerned you could be duped check their user names carefully.

For example, the account that parodied US defence company Lockheed Martin called itself Lockheedmartini.

But some have used more convincing usernames so it could be worth checking their Tweet history and seeing if they were active before Thursday, November 10.

Twitter beset by layoffs and resignations

The parody accounts are not Twitter's only problems.

There have been reports of several senior staff leaving this week after Mr Musk sacked around half of the staff at the social media company.

High-profile staff responsible for vital areas such as trust and safety, data privacy, cyber security, and complying with regulations suddenly left the social media giant on Thursday.

Elon Musk's takeover has been controversial. Credit: AP

The confirmed departure of Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of trust and safety, appears to have been a particularly difficult blow after he became the face of combating misinformation on the platform and was praised by Mr Musk.

In a leaked email sent by Mr Musk, he also warned Twitter might not survive the expected recession in the US.

Twitter has also struggled to respond to many journalist requests recently as the increased media attention caused by Mr Musk came up against a communications department that was largely gutted.

Regulators in the US have now said they are watching events at Twitter with “deep concern” and warned Mr Musk that no chief executive is “above the law”.

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