November 2022International NewsU.S.

Misinformation Spikes After Elon Musk’s Twitter Takeover

Justin Lotito
Staff Writer

When billionaire Elon Musk announced the decision to take over Twitter for an estimated 44 billion dollars in April, he promised change and innovative ideas, reports The New York Times. One of those ideas was a tweak to its verification policy that would see users pay eight dollars a month for a blue checkmark. The feature is called Twitter Blue. At launch, the new feature would be released to users in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. 

Twitter Blue debuted to users on November 5, but it was removed on November 6, only a day later, reports Business Insider. The quick removal came after the new paid checkmark policy on Twitter let in a flood of impersonation accounts, leading to widespread disinformation on the worldwide Internet platform. Internet trolls saw the opportunity as a chance to play pranks and mock users on the platform, and large corporations began to immediately feel the effect of the impersonation accounts.

One of the companies to feel the effects of the new policy was Eli Lilly and Company, a pharmaceutical company that sells its products to 125 countries.  “We are excited to announce insulin is now free,” a fake Eli Lilly and Company account posted to Twitter. That tweet had major implications for the pharmaceutical company’s stock market shares, which fell from $368 to $346 in a matter of minutes. This resulted in an estimated loss of $15 billion in market capitalization, which measures a company’s size in the stock market. A loss this significant has major ramifications for publicly traded companies as the higher the market cap the safer the company usually is to invest in. Eli Lilly’s public relations team was quick to post an apology tweet, denouncing the impersonators. However, fake accounts continued to harass the company and trolls reworded the apology, poking fun at product prices.

Lockheed Martin, an American arms manufacturer currently contracting weapons to Ukraine, also found their stocks affected due to Twitter Blue, reports the Eurasian Times. “We will begin halting all weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the United States until further investigation into their record of human rights abuses,” a fake Lockheed Martin account announced. This resulted in a 5.5 percent drop in the company’s stock price, and its market cap took a $7 billion hit. 

In response to the new policy, companies such as General Motors, Audi, and Volkswagen have pulled advertisements from Twitter for the foreseeable future, reports Forbes. The platform makes the majority of its revenue through advertisements. In 2021, Twitter made an estimated $4.5 billion of its $5.1 billion revenue, from paid advertisement, reports Barron’s

Twitter users also took the chance to mock former world leaders. Fake accounts of former U.S. President George W. Bush and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair went viral for mocking the U.S. and UK’s involvement in the Iraq War. Representatives of Bush and Blair have yet to respond to the satirical tweets, reports BBC News.

Musk announced Twitter Blue will be re-released on November 29 with new changes to prevent spoof accounts. “With new release, changing your verified name will cause loss of checkmark until name is confirmed by Twitter’s terms of service,” Musk said. To combat fake companies, Twitter has already brought back the official label. If a verified account intends to be a parody, a subscript labeling the account parody will be added to prevent the spread of false information, reports The New York Times. Although Musk has promised to reassess the policy and present a better alternative, misinformation on social media will continue to be a persisting issue. 

Image courtesy of Steve Jurveston

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