Elon Musk’s Twitter dropped its new pay-for-play verification checkmark on Wednesday (Nov. 9) and, shocker, it was a huge boon for the fake news industry.
The new Twitter Blue subscription costs $8 per month and comes with a blue check nearly identical to those of celebrities or journalists. The only difference is if you click the badge it tells you if it was given to a notable person or if it was paid for by a Twitter Blue subscriber. At a glance, just scrolling by, it looks exactly the same.
Almost immediately, people started posting fake news. The sports world was especially affected. Twitter is the place to go for sports discussion so it adds up that trolls would try to fool folks. The most common ploy was to create rumors about a player leaving their team. Most notably there was a fake LeBron James demanding a trade from the Lakers. There was a fake version of ESPN’s Adam Schefter reporting that the Las Vegas Raiders’ head coach had been fired. A fake Aroldis Chapman announced the pitcher was staying with the New York Yankees.
Over time some or most of the accounts got suspended, but not before lots of people saw the posts.
There was also an account pretending to be Nintendo that posted a picture of Mario flipping the bird. That account, too, got suspended.
Thankfully, thus far the fake news appeared to be mostly limited to these sorts of sports or pop culture stories, which are relatively harmless.
Though one person did pose as top Musk advisor Jason Calacanis. They posted fake details about Calacanis’ relationship with notorious financier and sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein. Calacanis was in Epstein’s address book but has said he met him just once.
It was extremely predictable that hijinks would ensue. That’s likely why Twitter briefly gave media organizations and celebrities an “Official” label before immediately walking it back on Wednesday. It was easy to predict trolls would try to fool users by posing as other people. If the blue check is up for sale, then it signals nothing about trustworthiness. It just shows you have access to $8.
So be careful out there, folks, and double check before you retweet.
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