Ed Markey, Elon Musk in tweet war over claims of ‘fake accounts’ on Twitter

A tweet war between Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey and billionaire Elon Musk, Twitter’s new chief executive officer, gained traction over the weekend.

Sunday morning, Musk, who took control of the social media platform two weeks ago, responded to Markey’s complaints about “fake accounts” on Twitter after a Washington Post reporter created an account impersonating Markey, the senator said.

“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. Twitter must explain how this happened and how to prevent it from happening again,” Markey said in a tweet on Friday.

At 10:20 a.m. Sunday, Musk responded in a tweet to Markey: “Perhaps it is because your real account sounds like a parody?”

A few minutes later, at 10:36 a.m., in referring to Markey’s Twitter profile photo in which the senator is wearing a blue surgical mask, Musk tweeted again to Markey: “And why does your pp have a mask!?”

At 11:16 a.m., Markey retweeted Musk’s tweet referring to Markey’s account as “a parody,” with a stern warning.

“One of your companies is under an FTC consent decree,” Markey tweeted to Musk. “Auto safety watchdog NHTSA is investigating another for killing people. And you’re spending your time picking fights online. Fix your companies. Or Congress will.”

Markey, a Democrat who is also on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, on Friday sent a letter to Musk demanding the company explain the procedures in place for its “blue checkmark” verification process, the senator said in a statement.

The Washington Post reporter “successfully obtained the Twitter handle ‘@realedmarkey’ and purchased the account a ‘blue check’ verification that noted the account was verified because it belonged to a ‘notable person in government,’” Markey said in a statement, criticizing Musk for risking “the spread of disinformation.”

“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,” wrote Senator Markey in his letter to Musk.

A short time later, Musk tweeted that the social media platform would implement a system for users to “enable organizations to manage affiliations.”

“Rolling out soon, Twitter will enable organizations to identify which other Twitter accounts are actually associated with them,” Musk tweeted.

The war of tweets between Markey and Musk occurred amid tough times for social media companies Twitter and Meta, Facebook’s parent company.

Earlier this month, widespread layoffs were announced at Twitter. And on Wednesday, it was reported that Facebook parent Meta is laying off 13 percent of its employees as it contends with faltering revenue and broader tech industry woes.

Twitter recently launched a new subscription service for $7.99 a month that includes a blue check mark next to the name of paid members — the mark was previously only for verified accounts.

Musk’s project has had a rocky rollout with an onslaught of newly-bought fake accounts this week impersonating high-profile figures such as basketball star LeBron James and the drug company Eli Lilly to post false information or offensive jokes.

This story contains information from The Associated Press.

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