Self-proclaimed “free-speech absolutist” Elon Musk announced a crackdown Sunday on parody Twitter accounts impersonating him, or anyone else.
“Going forward, any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying ‘parody’ will be permanently suspended,” Musk tweeted Sunday evening.
“Previously, we issued a warning before suspension, but now that we are rolling out widespread verification, there will be no warning. This will be clearly identified as a condition for signing up to Twitter Blue,” he continued in a thread. Furthermore, “Any name change at all will cause temporary loss of verified checkmark.”
That came after a number of prominent verified Twitter users — including comedians Kathy Griffin and Sarah Silverman and actress Valerie Bertinelli — switched their account names to read “Elon Musk” to prove that Musk’s new plan to give blue verification checkmarks to anyone who’ll pay $8 a month is flawed, allowing anyone with $8 to impersonate anyone else and potentially spread disinformation. As of Sunday night, Griffin’s account was suspended, while Silverman and Bertinelli had gone back to their real names.
However, this tweet — clearly marked parody — from podcasters Griffin Newman and David Sims was still up:
Musk has described himself as a “free-speech absolutist,” and that content on Twitter should not be censored much past the the law. Last week, after completing his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter, Musk tweeted: “Comedy is now legal on Twitter.”
In April, Musk said: “I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means.”
But perhaps more telling, in a 2019 interview in The Atlantic, Musk said “Accurate and entertaining satire is vital to a functioning democracy,” then quipped: “Unless it’s about me.”
A number of Twitter users called out Musk for Sunday’s changes: