World’s biggest democracies sound warning on Twitter blue checks
Officials from many of the world’s largest democracies are warning that Twitter Inc.’s new subscription service introduced under new owner Elon Musk is a breeding ground for misinformation.
From India to Brazil and the US, officials are warning of a proliferation in fake accounts, with some saying the new system in which a blue check mark can be bought for $7.99 per month is ripe for abuse.
The service, introduced after Musk’s $44 billion takeover in October, has already been suspended after subscribers paid to create impostor accounts with verified blue check marks. The most visible abuse came from wave of accounts lampooning major brands including Tesla Inc., Nestle SA and defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp.
Twitter accounts carrying a blue check mark also quickly appeared impersonating US politicians, including President Joe Biden and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. One account set up by the Washington Post as an experiment, mimicking Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, was mistakenly labeled as verified because it belonged to a person notable in government.
Markey criticized the platform changes from his real account, warning that Twitter and its leadership have a responsibility “to ensure the platform doesn’t become a breeding ground for manipulation and deceit.”
Indian security officials, including those who handle security in Jammu and Kashmir, are worried Twitter handles with a blue tick could be used to spread disinformation, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak with the press.
The Indian government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A spokesman for Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said the Brazilian president-elect’s team was concerned about an increase in misinformation and fake accounts even before Musk’s purchase of the company.
“Twitter did little to curb disinformation, hate speech and attacks on the democratic processes in the 2022 elections,” the spokesperson said. “It followed court rulings, but continued to allow the proliferation of fake and automated accounts used by Bolsonaro’s supporters, until verified accounts repeatedly published fake news.This already seemed to reflect the behavior of the platform’s team in the face of the beginning of Elon Musk’s management.”
Twitter’s Hectic Overhaul Puts World’s Regulators on Alert
The European Commission has said that it is currently not aware of any issue of fake accounts imitating commissioners. However, as a signatory of the Code of Practice, Twitter needs to commit to ensuring the integrity of services, Europe’s executive arm said.
The European Union’s Code of Practice for social media platforms was reinforced in 2022 to strengthen measures intended to reduce manipulative behavior used to spread disinformation, such as fake accounts.
Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
–With assistance from Simone Iglesias.
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