In this photo illustration, Elon Musk’s image is displayed on a computer screen and the Twitter logo on a mobile phone in Ankara, Turkey on October 6, 2022.

Muhammed Selim Korkutatta | Anatolian Agency | Getty Images

After several celebrities and verified Twitter users changed their accounts to mimic the social network’s new owner Elon Musk, he called for a swift change in enforcement.

Musk wrote on Sunday that going forward, Twitter will permanently suspend impersonator accounts without warning if they are not clearly labeled as a parody.

In a series of tweets on Sunday, the CEO of Tesla, SpaceX and now Twitter appeared to change his mind about the permanent bans, writing:

Move forwardany Twitter handle involving impersonation without clearly specifying “parody” will be permanently suspended

Previously, we issued a warning before the suspension, but now that we are introducing a wide-ranging check, there will be no warning. This will be clearly identified as a condition of Twitter Blue registration.

Any name change will result in the temporary loss of a verified bookmark at all.”

In May, after agreeing to buy Twitter, Musk railed against lifetime bans and said he would lift one of Donald Trump’s. Twitter banned the former president after the January 6, 2021 riot at the US Capitol, fearing that Trump’s tweets would incite further violence. Trump has said he won’t be returning to Twitter.

Before Musk completed his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter on Oct. 28, the social network certain rules that users “may not impersonate persons, groups, or organizations in order to mislead, confuse, or deceive others, or use a false identity in a way that disrupts others’ Twitter experience.”

The company previously required users engaging in parody to “distinguish themselves BOTH their account name and bio.”

Twitter previously said it would take any of three actions in response to impersonators, including: “profile moderation,” “temporary suspension,” or “permanent suspension.” The platform typically doesn’t jump to permanently banning a user account for presenting before Musk’s takeover.

As of Sunday evening, Twitter had not yet updated its terms of service to reflect Musk’s direction.

The decision by the “fool-in-chief,” as he jokingly called himself, sparked controversy and consternation, in part because Musk portrays himself as an absolutist of free speech.

Last week, he pushed back against activists, including civil rights leaders, who called on advertisers to stop spending on Twitter until Musk proved the company could deliver on its promises of trust and safety under his leadership.

When Musk appeared at Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco on October 27, online trolls and bigots flooded the social network, littering it with a stream of racist epithets and other hate speech. The researchers said Twitter took appropriate actions in response, but should have anticipated and tried to prevent the attack.

Check changes

After that gauntlet, Musk implemented a sharp downsizing at Twitter, laying off about 3,700 people across various departments, including layoffs of content moderators and other trust and safety experts. A major focus for him is the redesign of the platform’s subscription product and verification system.

The check, in the form of a blue check, was reserved for public figures such as politicians and celebrities who were very likely to be impersonated by bad actors. Now Musk plans to make a verification token available to anyone who pays $7.99 a month for Twitter Blue, a subscription product.

The verification changes have inspired an outpouring of mockery and mimicry from those who believe it will complicate, rather than help, Twitter users to find good information and authentic accounts on the platform.

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The account of one of the comedians who impersonated Musk over the weekend, Kathy Griffin, was suspended on Sunday. She changed her screen name to Elon Musk and her profile picture to look like his, then tweeted: “After many lively discussions with the women in my life, I decided that voting blue for their choice was the right thing to do (They too we’re sexy women, by the way.)”

The account of actor Rich Sommer, known for his role as Harry Crane on AMC’s “Mad Men,” was also suspended after he changed his screen name and profile picture to impersonate Musk.

Pretending to speak like Musk on Twitter, Sommer quipped on Friday: “I’m just confused. Can 44 billion of you send $1 each to Twitter, mind?” He later added more fiercely, “Ok, time to use plan B since they are FORCING me to keep Twitter. Does anyone know any advertisers who are ‘in love’ with racism, NOT ACTUAL RACISTS!! just ad ppl who are, you know, I’m curious what this (racism) is all about.”

Twitter and Elon Musk did not immediately respond to a request for comment or to confirm whether Sommer and Griffin were permanently banned.

Others impersonating Musk included actress Valerie Bertinelli, who on Saturday changed her screen name to Elon Musk, then posted tweets urging her followers to vote for Democratic candidates.

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Sarah Silverman, the comedian, writer and host of I Love You America, also changed her screen name and avatar picture to look like Elon Musk’s. He then appeared to be speaking in Musk’s voice, writing a youthful quip: “I’m a free speech absolutist and I eat doodies for breakfast every day.”

Bertinelli changed her profile back before Twitter took any apparent action against her account. She wrote on Sunday morning: “Ok-dokey, I had fun and I think I got it right. I’m just not a “trendy” girl. I never was, I never want to be. Happy Sunday everyone! xo”

Silverman remained on the platform, reverting to using her own photo and screen name after her account was locked by Twitter. In a post to her 12 million listed fans and followers there on Sunday, Silverman wrote: “1) 9 days ago 2) yesterday 3) today. Having fun,” attaching three images.

One image references a promise Musk made to his followers on Oct. 28, writing that “Comedy is now legal on Twitter,” shortly after he purchased the platform. The others showed her joking tweet and that it triggered a restriction.

Musk defended himself against critics who say his new enforcement directive runs counter to the free speech values ​​he espouses on Sunday. He wrote: “My commitment to free speech even extends to not banning the account after my plane, even though it is a direct risk to personal safety.”

Student Jack Sweeney created a Twitter account using publicly available data that automatically updates to show the location of Musk’s frequent flights on his private jet. Musk has pressured Sweeney and even offered to pay him to remove the flight tracker, but that stays on Twitter even now.

On Sunday, after calling for a ban on copycats without a parody label, Musk also tried to shift the focus away from free speech. He wrote: “Twitter must become the most accurate source of information for the world. That is our mission.”

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