Musk Bans Impersonation Twitter Accounts

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New Twitter owner Elon Musk says impersonation accounts to be permanently suspended without warning, raising questions about free speech

Elon Musk has said parody Twitter accounts that impersonate others will be permanently suspended without warning if they are not labelled as such, raising questions over his commitment to free speech.

The decision comes after several high-profile users with blue-check verified accounts changed their profile names to mimic Musk for comedy purposes.

Several of the accounts that did so have already been suspended or placed behind a warning sign.

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Image credit: SpaceX

Permanent suspension

“Going forward, any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying ‘parody’ will be permanently suspended,” Musk wrote on Twitter.

“Previously, we issued a warning before suspension, but now that we are rolling out widespread verification, there will be no warning.”

He added that “any name change at all” would cause a temporary loss of the verified checkmark.

Musk completed his $44 billion (£39bn) acquistion of Twitter late last month and immediately began making changes at the company, firing its executive team, dissolving its board of directors and beginning mass layoffs expected to affect more than half of Twitter’s staff.

Banned accounts

He also said Twitter would begin offering verified status, previously reserved for public figures, to anyone paying an $8 monthly fee.

Musk previously said he was against permanent bans, and said he would allow former president Donald Trump to return to the service. Trump has said he does not plan to return.

Musk added that banned accounts will not be reinstated until there is “a clear process for doing so”.

Twitter previously disallowed impersonation, but its response to violations included an intervention by moderators or temporary suspension, as well as permanent suspension.

Free speech

The account of Kathy Griffin, one of the comedians who changed her profile to parody Musk, was suspended on Sunday, as were those of actor Rich Sommer and comedian Sarah Silverman.

Actress Valerie Bertinelli briefly posted parody Musk tweets, but changed her profile name back before being suspended.

Musk noted that an automated Twitter account that tracks the movement of his private jet has not been banned, illustrating his “commitment to free speech”.

In an effort to shift the focus away from free speech, Musk wrote that he wants Twitter “to become by far the most accurate source of information about the world”.

“That’s our mission,” he tweeted.