Senator Ed Markey is blasting Twitter CEO Elon Musk for his “dangerous and unacceptable” changes to the company's verification procedures, including a decision to allow people to purchase blue checkmarks for $8.
“Safeguards such as Twitter’s blue checkmark once allowed users to be smart, critical consumers of news and information in Twitter’s global town square,” the Massachusetts Democrat says in a letter sent to Musk Friday afternoon. “But your Twitter takeover, rapid and haphazard imposition of platform changes, removal of safeguards against disinformation, and firing of large numbers of Twitter employees have accelerated Twitter’s descent into the Wild West of social media.”
The letter comes the day after Washington Post reporter Geoffrey Fowler obtained a blue verification checkmark for the fake account @realEdMarkey.
Markey, who allowed himself to be impersonated by the Post, referred to the fake account in his letter.
“The Post reporter was able to accomplish this impersonation despite Twitter having previously verified my actual Twitter account under the handle '@SenMarkey,'” the lawmaker writes. “Compounding Twitter’s verification dysfunction, a pop-up stated that the fake account was verified because I was a notable person in government, not because someone had paid for the verification blue checkmark.”
Twitter reportedly suspended the rollout of the paid verification service late Thursday, after news surfaced of several high-profile fake accounts -- including one for pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly. That account, which had a checkmark, tweeted that insulin was now free.
“Apparently, due to Twitter’s lax verification practices and apparent need for cash, anyone could pay $8.00 and impersonate someone on your platform,” Markey writes. “Selling the truth is dangerous and unacceptable. Twitter must explain how this happened and how it will prevent it from happening again.”
He is asking Musk to respond to a list of questions, including its procedures for issuing “paid-for blue checkmark verification” and how they differed from the procedures for the free verification process.
The lawmaker also wants to know how the Post was verified the @realEdMarkey account, and whether Twitter failed to follow any internal verification policies.
Markey is requesting answers by November 25.