Senator asks Elon Musk to explain Twitter impersonators

Twitter’s outburst of impersonators draws criticism from politicians. Senator Ed Markey has… sent a letter to company executive Elon Musk demanding answers regarding impostors on the platform. Markey wants to know how Twitter doesn’t just leave a reporter for The Washington Post to create a verified account masquerading as the senator (now trivial with an $8) Blue subscription, but told users in a pop-up that the verification was due to a government role. This was despite an existing checkmark for the real account, Markey said.

Markey also wants Twitter to detail its verification process, including a comparison to the previous method. He asked Musk if Twitter will reintroduce merit-based verifications and, if so, how it will prevent fake accounts from getting blue checks. The senator gave Musk until November 25 to respond.

The political leader was direct in his criticism. He accused Musk of making a “random” series of changes to Twitter, including dismantling safeguards against disinformation. The service is fast becoming the “wild west of social media” and has a duty to prevent deception and manipulation from taking root, Markey added.

Musk has not responded to the letter and Twitter has effectively done so shut down his communications team. The entrepreneur previously argued that paying for verification democratizes the feature, and in a recent tweet claimed Twitter supported citizen journalism despite opposition from the “media elite.”

There is no assurance the letter will translate into government action, especially if the recent midterm elections could shift Congress’s balance of power in January. Twitter’s decision to temporarily suspend Blue subscriptions in response to impersonations, not to mention the company’s “off-again” “official” checkmarks, may also allay some of Markey’s concerns. It’s safe to say, though, that the letter adds to the uproar surrounding the new pay-to-verify system.

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