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Sunday, December 4, 2022

Elon Threatens Permanent Bans on Twitter Parody accounts

Tesla CEO Elon Musk purchased Twitter last month for $44 billion. He has promised sweeping changes to the site’s moderation policies and vowed to protect free speech on the platform.

Tech billionaire and newly minted owner of Twitter, Elon Musk, has threatened permanent bans on “parody” accounts that are not clearly labeled as a parody.

Musk announced the new policy after a rush of accounts, many with Twitter’s verification “blue check marks,” satirized Musk by changing their name and profile to resemble the tech billionaire. Musk’s decision also comes roughly eight days after he declared that “comedy is now legal on Twitter.”

Musk has had an eventful first couple of weeks as the owner of one of the world’s largest social media websites. He angered many popular accounts by announcing that the blue check marks next to verified accounts will now be included in Twitter Blue, an $8-a-month premium subscription service for the platform. He has since backtracked on that slightly, deciding to delay its implementation until after Tuesday’s midterm elections, according to media reports.

The Blue check marks were previously free and were given to noteworthy accounts that applied for them as a way to limit fraud and impersonation on the platform. Musk also stated that any verified account will have its blue check mark temporarily removed after changing its name.

Multiple celebrities and other verified accounts, including comedian Kathy Griffin, had their accounts suspended for impersonating Musk. It is unclear if those violations will result in permanent bans; they took place before Musk’s announcement.

Prior to the completion of his Twitter purchase, Musk stated that he does not believe in permanent bans and called it a “mistake” by Twitter’s previous leadership to permanently suspend former President Trump for his actions during the January 6, 2021 riot at the Capitol building.

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On Friday, Musk fired around 3,700 workers from Twitter, including many senior executives and the majority of the moderation team. According to Bloomberg, which cites two people familiar with the situation, Twitter asked for dozens of the freshly fired employees to come back on Sunday.

The embarrassing flub was the result of the management team realizing that the fired employees’ experience would be beneficial in creating the new features Musk plans to bring to the site.

While Musk is not banning parody accounts entirely, it could be argued that requiring that parody accounts announce themselves as such would ruin the joke. That is the argument satirical newspaper The Onion made in an amicus brief to the Supreme Court last month in support of a fellow satirist.

“[Requiring a warning would disarm] the power that comes with a form devouring itself. For millennia, this has been the rhythm of parody,” the brief states. “The author convinces the readers that they’re reading the real thing, then pulls the rug out from under them with the joke. The heart of this form lies in that give and take between the serious setup and the ridiculous punchline.”

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Roughly an hour after Musk’s announcement, he tweeted that the site’s goal is to become “the most accurate source of information about the world.”

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