The latest in a seemingly never-ending list of dire consequences for Twitter users in the wake of Elon Musk’s purchase is a very predictable one: after overhauling the site’s verification system a flood of fake — and yet still “verified” — accounts have begun using the platform to fuck with people.
Previously, a “verified” Twitter account had a small blue check next to its name, and meant that the person tweeting from that account was who you would expect it to be. That’s what the word “verified” means in most contexts. Under Musk’s new Twitter Blue subscription system, however, anyone paying him $US8 ($11) a month can also be “verified”, simply because they are paying, and so the internet-wide shorthand for a trusted account — you’ll find blue ticks everywhere from Instagram to Depop — is now almost worthless on Twitter.
Here are some examples from earlier today. The first is this account claiming to be Valve Software, tweeting about a new “competitive platform”. It’s not Valve, of course — the account name is actually valvesotfware, and Valve would never use the word “excited” in a release — but there’s a big blue tick next to its name, which means a lot of people trusted it was legitimate and believed it.
The second is this fake Nintendo account. Again, it’s not actually Nintendo, but there’s a blue tick next to its name, which for most people not terminally online and following every development in this ridiculous story would suggest that it is.
(Note that while this is obviously a ridiculous tweet, an earlier one from this same now-suspended account was trying to announce a Super Mario Galaxy game coming to the Switch)
If you use Twitter for video game news and want to stay safe out there, a good tip — if also a bit of a hassle — is that you can burrow down into an account’s verified status and see what kind of verification they’ve received. By going to an account’s profile and clicking/tapping on the blue tick, you’ll be shown a prompt that will either say the owner has paid $US8 ($11) for their status, or whether they’re an actual, verified person/company.
While the fake Nintendo account is out here tweeting like a 13 year-old, the fake Valve account has since followed that sham announcement up with a statement explaining they had a reason for the lies, saying in protest:
Twitter Blue is a problem, misinformation is so easy to spread and the damage it can cause can have a real impact on people, much more of an impact than a fake game announcement. You now own a massive platform and this is what you choose to do with it, do better. @elonmusk
Pretty much! While the video game accounts here (and no doubt countless others springing up as I type this) have been messing with some fairly innocent stuff — something sports fans have also been doing — it’s now just as easy to impersonate a news outlet, politician or activist and do some real damage.
In those cases the advice is the same as these gaming accounts (or any Twitter account); check the check to make sure a verified account is actually verified, and….God, I feel stupider for having had to even type that.