It sure seems like Elon Musk just spent $44 billion to get bullied and generally come off like a buffoon on the World Wide Web.
Twitter’s main event of the weekend was continued backlash over Musk’s decision to begin charging for verification (i.e. blue checks) on the site. Musk faced a bevy of impersonators on Saturday and Sunday, prompting the self-professed “free speech absolutist” to apparently rethink his declaration that “comedy is now legal on Twitter.”
Among the famous faces to remake themselves in Musk’s image included Kathy Griffin, Valerie Bertinelli, and Sarah Silverman, all of whom used the same photo and display name as the new chief Twit to make it appear as if he was tweeting the things they were tweeting. Pretty funny, right? Meh. It was funny insofar as it’s funny to see Elon Musk get upset, and boy did he get upset.
On Sunday, Musk tweeted, “Going forward, any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying “parody” will be permanently suspended.” Do you hear that? It’s the sound of comedy lurching back to jail, or at least the particular comedy stylings of Kathy Griffin. As of this writing, Bertinelli and Silverman’s accounts are active on the site, but Griffin is still in Twitter jail with a suspended account. It’s unclear whether the suspension will actually be permanent. (Musk tweeted that Griffin could have her account back if she bought Twitter Blue for $8 a month, but it’s unclear if he was serious. We’re not sure where we stand on the whole comedy/joking thing.)
Griffin, however, logged into the app through her dead mother’s account (“She would not mind,” Griffin assured.) to continue sparring with Musk. Yes, Griffin’s dead mother’s account also has Musk’s name and photo, but lacks a blue check, so a certain oomph is certainly lost.
The dead-mom account is pretty illustrative of why giving everyone willing to pay $8 a month for a blue check seems like a bad idea. Musk seems to be under the impression that the checks are merely status symbols, and they certainly function that way—somewhat. But their main purpose is to confirm the identity of someone who there would be a reasonable motive to impersonate, like a celebrity or journalist. It was assumed that if you had the checkmark, you wouldn’t be the one doing the impersonating. With verification for sale, it will be preposterously easy to fairly convincingly imitate someone—Musk or otherwise.
Sparring with self-professed D-list comedians is hardly Musk’s only issue at the moment. On Friday, Musk laid off about half of the company’s staff via email; now, it’s been reported that the company is already quietly asking some of those (former) employees to return, apparently realizing that remaking what is possibly the world’s most influential social media platform in the image of one of the world’s biggest egos would take some manpower. As Gizmodo noted in their coverage, the company is already being sued by the axed employees for violating a California law requiring at least 60 days’ notice for a mass layoff.
As if that weren’t enough, Musk tweeted a cutesy meme on Monday depicting a World War II-era German soldier with carrier pigeons. (This was a half hour before he urged his followers to vote for a Republican congress in Tuesday’s midterms.) If that was meant to be a joke, it is decidedly not funny. Trolling Kathy Griffin is one thing; tweeting Nazi-era imagery, even inadvertently, is quite another. Good luck booking those advertisers you speak of.