In what appears to be a sweeping new campaign to enforce its policy prohibiting impersonation, Twitter now auto-locks any non-verified account that attempts to change its display name to “Elon Musk.” But the Tesla founder isn’t the only one whose name is off limits.
Say you’re scrolling through what you believe to be Musk’s tweets, enjoying a perfectly normal exchange about a hero diver possibly being a pedophile, and suddenly you notice that the Tesla CEO changes topics and goes off in a whole new direction. Specifically, it seems like he’s trying to give away cryptocurrency. But then you notice the actual handle for this very generous version of Musk is something other than @elonmusk, and this is all some kind of scam. Real Musk has commented on how impressive this fake Elon operation is, and journalists have even been tricked into linking to the fraudulent tweets.
Those days are over... sort of.
On Tuesday, Twitter began automatically locking accounts that try to take on Musk’s display name. In our tests, the account lock was instant. To continue, a user has to solve a Google reCAPTCHA and verify their phone number. But once that’s done, attempting to change the display name to “Bill Gates” or “John McAfee” will start the whole process over.
Other names we found to be prohibited included Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and cryptocurrency kingpin Roger Ver. Twitter has a policy that forbids users from “portraying another person in a confusing or deceptive manner,” but the social network is notorious for its selective enforcement of its own rules. This new automated lock for certain names appears to be specifically designed to target names that are commonly used for cryptocurrency scams. Testing out “Larry Page,” “Donald Trump,” and “Ajit Pai,” did not result in an account lock.
We reached out to Twitter to ask for comment on its new approach to its impersonation policy and to request the full list of names that are prohibited, but we did not receive an immediate reply. “As part of our commitment to serve the public conversation, we’re continuing to fight spam and other malicious behaviors on our service,” a spokesperson for the company told The Verge. “As such, we’re rapidly developing our response to be more agile and effective in detecting these behaviors and enforcing our policies—particularly as it relates to deceptive cryptocurrency accounts in violation of our spam rules.”
For the most part, the policy seems to be working. Musk’s tweets are relatively scam-free at the moment. We did notice a couple of verified fake Musks that managed to get around the system, but within a few minutes, their links to crypto-giveaways were deleted.
So yes, Twitter is capable of cleaning up some of the mess on its platform. Next up, it should ban the Nazis.