That was not really Nintendo posting a picture of Mario flipping off Twitter. And that was not Pepsi’s official account calling Coca-Cola the better soda. And Eli Lilly was not tweeting about giving away insulin. Those were just Twitter brand impersonators, and the latest agents of chaos overwhelming the service since Elon Musk started ripping out the wiring.
This week, brands were being impersonated left and right on Twitter because of one of Musk’s first business decisions since buying Twitter last month. Musk has been looking to change the verification system, so anyone could buy a blue check mark for $8 per month, giving that account a badge of authenticity.
After the announcements, those Twitter users with blue checks started making fun of the new boss by impersonating Musk on Twitter, which led Musk to suspend their accounts. These included the accounts of people such as comedian and online activist Kathy Griffin, who trolled the billionaire by pretending to be him using her blue check.
Quickly, blue checks became a brand safety issue. By Thursday, one major media holding company issued a warning about the possibility of brands being attacked on Twitter by bad actors armed with newly purchased blue checks. A leader at the holding company, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the potential for impersonation was the latest sign that Twitter is going downhill as a place for advertisers, and Musk’s attempts to calm the atmosphere by talking with top advertisers, did not inspire confidence. “Basically, a bad situation has gotten worse,” this person said. “It’s deteriorated.”
The holding company sent an internal memo to its teams warning about impersonations on Twitter. This follows other holding companies, including IPG’s Mediabrands, which had already warned brands not to spend money on Twitter until Musk can assure marketers that the platform will remain viable in terms of brand safety and suitability.
Brand impersonations were not even the No. 1 advertiser fear until recent days. Marketers were mostly concerned about the potential for hate speech on Twitter after Musk bought the company, because he promised looser moderation policies to enable more free-flowing conversation. For advertisers, that raised alarms about more harassment, trolls and possible racism.