Twitter CEO Elon Musk slammed Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) on the platform Sunday after the senator made false statements in a letter to him late last week over the platform selling blue verification badges to paying subscribers.
Markey mentioned a report from The Washington Post in his letter where the reporter, with his permission, was able to set up a fake Twitter account and pay for a verified account impersonating Markey’s real account.
“Yesterday, a Washington Post reporter easily created a fake Twitter account in my name, and by paying $8.00 was also able to obtain Twitter’s blue checkmark, signifying that Twitter had ‘verified’ the account was indeed that of a sitting U.S. Senator. It was not,” Markey’s letter began. “Apparently, due to Twitter’s lax verification practices and apparent need for cash, anyone could pay $8.00 and impersonate someone on your platform. Selling the truth is dangerous and unacceptable. Twitter must explain how this happened and how it will prevent it from happening again.”
Markey then made false claims about the verification badge that the fake account was given.
“Compounding Twitter’s verification dysfunction, a pop-up stated that the fake account was verified because I was a notable person in government, not because someone had paid for the verification blue checkmark,” Markey falsely claimed. “Safeguards such as Twitter’s blue checkmark once allowed users to be smart, critical consumers of news and information in Twitter’s global town square.”
The Washington Post’s report clearly showed a side-by-side screenshot of Markey’s real Twitter account vs. the fake account and the badges displayed different popups when clicked on.
His real account stated: “This account is verified because it’s notable in government, news, entertainment, or another designated category.”
The fake account, contrary to Markey’s claims, stated: “This account is verified because it’s subscribed to Twitter Blue.”
Markey then claimed that the platform had descended into “the Wild West of social media” and demanded answering to questions related to Twitter’s verification process, which the company has paused for Twitter Blue subscribers.
Musk responded to a tweet from Markey that contained his letter to Musk.
“A @washingtonpost reporter was able to create a verified account impersonating me—I’m asking for answers from @elonmusk who is putting profits over people and his debt over stopping disinformation,” Markey tweeted. “Twitter must explain how this happened and how to prevent it from happening again.”
“Perhaps it is because your real account sounds like a parody?” Musk responded.
Musk later mocked the Senator for having a profile photo that showed him wearing a mask, writing, “And why does your pp have a mask!?”
And why does your pp have a mask!?
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 13, 2022