Just days after Elon Musk bought Twitter, the billionaire says users engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying it as a parody account will face permanent suspension.
The announcement came just after some celebrities and blue-check verified Twitter users changed their accounts to mimic the social network’s new owner.
Detailing the new policy on parody accounts, Mr Musk tweeted:
“Previously, we issued a warning before a suspension, but now that we are rolling out widespread verification, there will be no warning.”
He added that “any name change at all will cause temporary loss of verified checkmark.”
Before Musk closed his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter on October 28, 2022, the social network’s rules specified that users “may not impersonate individuals, groups, or organisations to mislead, confuse, or deceive others, nor use a fake identity in a manner that disrupts the experience of others on Twitter.”
The company previously required that users engaged in a parody “distinguish themselves in their account name and bio.” If the user fails, Twitter previously issued warnings before suspending accounts, but there would now be no warning but immediate suspension.
Parody accounts without disclaimers pose a severe challenge to information consumption and diffusion, especially to users on social media. These fake accounts can misrepresent the voice and view of actual accounts by falsely representing public figures, companies etc., unfairly and posting false statements to injure the character of the actual user.
Parody accounts can easily achieve this since most users on social media take them seriously for obvious reasons. During the heat of the recent eight-month strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in Nigeria, close to 15 parody accounts posing as ASUU popped up on Twitter and misled desperate students eager to resume school.
Parody accounts on Twitter were meant to post fun-laden tweets to delight the followers. Instead, they have become fake news factories, misleading users on burning issues worldwide.
For instance, in the buildup to the 2023 elections in Nigeria, two parody accounts have been opened in the names of a prominent Yoruba leader, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, and the vice-presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Dr Yusuf Datti Ahmed. These fake accounts triggered diverse discourses and amassed massive followers before being discredited.
Twitter accounts that pose as another person, brand or organisation are on the rise in Nigeria, tweeting misinformation to change the narrative of the day. Most of these accounts are used to target a particular person or to forward or perpetuate a specific political, religious or otherwise philosophy.