Elon Musk

Elon Musk Insults Sen. Markey After Twitter Verification Criticism

When Musk suggested Markey's "real account sounds like a parody," the senator from Massachusetts replied, "Fix your companies. Or Congress will"

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Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey had strong words for Elon Musk Sunday after the new Twitter CEO responded to his concerns about changes on the site with an insult.

Earlier this week, a Washington Post reporter's experiment found that an account pretending to be Markey was mistakenly labeled with a blue check as that of a "notable" person, rather than simply because it was paid for.

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Markey, who'd given permission for the experiment, took to Twitter from his real account Friday to point out what happened and raise questions about the series of changes that have roiled the giant social media company in the two weeks since billionaire Musk bought it.

On Sunday morning, Musk responded with a tweet, "Perhaps it is because your real account sounds like a parody?" A subsequent tweet poked fun at the fact that Markey is wearing a mask in his profile picture.

Markey replied by noting that Twitter and another of Musk's companies, Tesla, are under federal scrutiny: "One of your companies is under an FTC consent decree. Auto safety watchdog NHTSA is investigating another for killing people. And you’re spending your time picking fights online. Fix your companies. Or Congress will." quoting his tweet.

There used to be several steps to earn a blue "verified" checkmark on Twitter, but the platform's new program lets users purchase one for $7.99 per month.

Among the biggest changes Musk has implemented was changing the verification system, which has signified that a team at Twitter checked that the account belongs to the person they say they are. Musk allowed anyone to buy the blue check mark for $8 a month, in a bid to give non-famous people access to the cachet that comes with a the blue check, as well as to raise badly needed money for Twitter.

The change immediately prompted some users to buy check marks and pretend to be famous politicians, companies and athletes; Twitter reacted with various crackdowns, some since abandoned, to prevent parody accounts from sowing chaos, including letting Twitter users tap check marks to see if they were given because the person is paying for it or because they are "notable in government, news, entertainment, or another designated category."

The Tesla CEO is now the owner of the social media company.

That last part didn't appear to work in the reporter's experiment — Markey's two real accounts and the fake account, @realEdMarkey, all were labeled "notable" — though the fake account's label had changed by Friday morning.

"Last night, I was easily impersonated and the account was quickly verified. Safeguards like blue checks let users be smart, critical consumers of news and information in Twitter’s global town square. Truth can’t be put on sale for $8," Markey wrote.

After sharing screenshots of the badge, he added that Twitter should act responsibly to prevent the spread of misinformation: "The rapid platform changes and removal of these safeguards are dangerous and Twitter and its leadership have a responsibility to the public to ensure the platform doesn’t become a breeding ground for manipulation and deceit."

Markey also sent a letter to Musk with specific questions, including how its system allowed a "reporter to obtain verification of a fake account." The senator wrote, "Twitter must explain how this happened and how it will prevent it from happening again."

The reporter, Geoffrey Fowler, explained in an article Friday how he was able to impersonate Markey and a comedian by paying for verification.

"To create them, I only needed three things: a spare iPhone, a credit card and a little creativity," Fowler wrote.

He also noted the apparent bug in the blue check system: "On both of my test accounts, a pop-up said they were verified because they were notable people, not because I had paid for Twitter Blue."

Twitter hadn't provided a request for comment on the Post's article.

On Friday morning, Twitter's officials Support account announced that it restored a second kind of label it created, ca grey check and the word "official," as a way to "combat impersonation."

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