WASHINGTON – Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) is asking Elon Musk to stop Twitter from becoming the “Wild West of social media” after the billionaire changed his newly acquired social media site’s verification process to allow anyone with $8 to obtain the sought-after blue check mark.
“Your Twitter takeover, rapid and haphazard imposition of platform changes, removal of safeguards against disinformation and firing of large numbers of Twitter employees have accelerated Twitter’s descent into the Wild West of social media,” Markey told Musk in an official letter Friday.
Twitter, under Musk’s direction, began Nov. 5 to dole out check marks – which used to be reserved for accounts of notable companies, celebrities, politicians, journalists and others – to those who pay for the Twitter Blue service.
The monthly subscription plan also came with other benefits, such as an “edit” button for already posted tweets and fewer advertisements, but Musk highlighted the elusive checkmark to the package with his takeover.
“Blue checkmark: Power to the people. Your account will get a blue checkmark, just like the celebrities, companies and politicians you follow,” the company wrote in an announcement earlier this month.
Some have been taking advantage of the new system, creating false accounts for companies and individuals. Last week, a Washington Post reporter set up an account under the handle “@realedmarkey” for a story showing how easily the system can be abused.
“The [Washington] Post reporter was able to accomplish this impersonation despite Twitter having previously verified my actual Twitter account under the handle ‘@SenMarkey,’” the senator said. “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.”
Markey accused Musk of “putting profits over people and his debt over stopping disinformation,” posting his letter to Twitter over the weekend.
On Sunday, Musk snapped back: “Perhaps it is because your real account sounds like a parody?”
In response, the senator pointed out bigger issues Musk’s companies are facing, including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s investigations into multiple Tesla crashes and the Federal Trade Commission’s investigation into a possible violation involving an obligation Twitter must comply with whenever it experiences a structural change, such as mergers and sales.
“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,” Markey said. “Fix your companies. Or Congress will.”