If a verified, blue-checkmarked LeBron James account is tweeting at you, don't be alarmed. It's probably not LeBron James. Also, several key Twitter executives in charge of safety and privacy just resigned. WHAT COULD GO WRONG.
The brilliant plan to solve Twitter's near-term revenue woes concocted by Elon Musk and his over-confident transition crew, namely adding $3 to the subscription for Twitter Blue and offering everyone and their mother a "verified" blue checkmark, has inevitably led to some immediate abuse. With a staff stripped down by half at the company, and given that AI isn't yet capable of all user moderation tasks, is there anyone over there to crack down on these abuses before our feeds are overtaken with fake accounts?
Twitter's most senior cybersecurity executive, Lea Kissner, just resigned today, as did chief privacy officer Damien Kieran, and chief compliance officer Marianne Fogerty. And now Bloomberg is reporting late Thursday that two other executives who had emerged as early loyalists doing their damndest to keep the ship afloat during Musk's takeover, head of trust and safety Yoel Roth and sales VP Robin Wheeler, also just quit. Wheeler was leading the big Twitter Spaces conference with Musk and advertisers just the other day.
And since Musk all about not "sugarcoating" anything, as he said in a morning email to staff, he also apparently told Twitter employees in a meeting Thursday that bankruptcy is not off the table if the company's run-rate (expenses) exceed its revenue in the coming months.
As TechCrunch explains, the whirlwind of chaos doesn't end there. "The departures [of Roth and others] raise regulatory questions, specifically related to who is tracking activity on the platform and making sure Twitter is reporting information and remaining compliant with existing frameworks."
A spokesperson from the FTC put out a statement saying, "We are tracking recent developments at Twitter with deep concern. No CEO or company is above the law, and companies must follow our consent decrees."
The New York Times reports that these resignations come ahead of a deadline tomorrow for a compliance report to be sent to the FTC — and it may be that executives don't want to end up with personal legal liability from signing off on such a report. These reports are required following privacy snafus at Twitter and an FTC probe in its early years, and a consent decree dating back to 2011.
Per the Times:
Twitter has typically reviewed its products for privacy problems before rolling them out to users, to avoid additional fines from the F.T.C. and remain in compliance with the settlement. But because of a rapid pace of product development under Mr. Musk, engineers could be forced to “self-certify” so that their projects meet privacy requirements, one employee wrote in an internal message seen by The Times.
The Times further saw an email from Musk to Twitter employees reassuring them,"I cannot emphasize enough that Twitter will do whatever it takes to adhere to both the letter and the spirit of the F.T.C. consent decree."
This week has already seen Musk roll out and then quickly kill a new feature that added extra gray "Official" checkmarks for actually verified, celebrity-type accounts.
Musk says he never liked the two-tiered, "lords and serfs" system, but without any process behind verification, the concept of verification that the blue checkmarks provided is now moot. So anyone can be anyone they say they are until they're caught, basically.
"Blue check will be the great leveler," Musk said. Yeah, that and the demise of some level of confidence in the platform's celebrity catfishing enforcement.
As CBS News reports, within a day of the new $8 blue-check system rolling out, there were a pair of "verified" accounts that "claimed to belong to former President George W. Bush and former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair [and that] exchanged tweets about how they 'miss killing Iraqis.'"
There was a LeBron James impersonator, and one user posing as New York Yankees pitcher Aroldis Chapman.
"I feel like so much of the appeal of sports Twitter is seeing news and drama play out in real time and feeling like athletes are a click away," said ESPN staff writer Joon Lee in a tweet about the fakes. "If athletes can’t control their message on here any more cause of fake verification, are they gonna leave?"
Following sports transactions and news could become a total mess with the new verification system— Joon Lee (@joonlee) November 9, 2022
Already fake LeBron and Aroldis Chapman tweets going around pic.twitter.com/vQgMqws1W0
Comedian Kathy Griffin was among a number of celebrities who changed their profile pics and display names to Elon Musk's on Sunday, in a kind of mock protest about the new $8/month that he wanted to charge them for their blue checks. She saw her account suspended pretty quickly — Musk has said that impersonation isn't allowed — and over on the alt-Twitter platform Mastodon, she posted, ""I guess not ALL the content moderators were let go? Lol."
Musk himself commented on the suspension, joking that Griffin was suspended for "impersonating a comedian."
To be clear, Musk tweeted Wednesday that "in the coming days" they will "add granularity to [the] verified badge, such as organizational affiliation & ID verification."
Griffin has since started tweeting from her dead mother's account, using the hashtag #FreeKathy, and the display name on that, un-verified account now says Elon Musk.
Been texting this pic all day to friends w a simple “Thinking of you”. Try it! pic.twitter.com/6C34jdnSSI— Elon Musk (@TipItMaggieG) November 9, 2022
So, chaos reigns!
Here's the simple answer to all of Twitter's woes, from one of Musk's current deputies-in-charge.
The reason I am paying $8 for Twitter Blue is that I want to see twitter be sustainable & free of spam/bots.— @jason (@Jason) November 10, 2022
My personal belief is that if enough of us do this, the community will thrive.
[ and I used to pay $4 for the last Blue ]
Top Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images