Twitter owner Elon Musk on Sunday deflected questions directed at him by Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) about the social media site’s upended verification system. Musk instead mocked Markey over an impostor account created to look like the senator’s.
Musk appeared to publicly dismiss Markey’s request for answers about a system that has allowed a rash of impostor accounts to pop up. Twitter has been inundated with problems since Musk took over late last month, many related to the platform’s switch to selling its “blue check mark” verification for $8 a month.
To point out concerns over Twitter’s new procedures to acquire a blue check mark, a Washington Post reporter made a test impostor account for Markey (with the senator’s permission).
“A @washingtonpost reporter was able to create a verified account impersonating me — I’m asking for answers from @elonmusk who is putting profits over people and his debt over stopping disinformation,” Markey tweeted Friday while sharing a copy of a letter addressed to Musk.
“Perhaps it is because your real account sounds like a parody?” Musk said in a tongue-in-cheek response to Markey. Musk, in another red herring, questioned why Markey’s Twitter profile photo shows him wearing a coronavirus face mask.
Though COVID-19 cases have largely plateaued in the U.S. since a record high last December, the virus remains prevalent. The federal government reportedly plans to renew the pandemic as a public health emergency in January, with some health officials cautioning that there could be a surge in cases again this winter.
Markey has continued to advocate for coronavirus protections, particularly for seniors and those who are immunocompromised. He has also worked to secure funding in the Senate to address the long-term health complications related to the virus.
But it’s Markey’s work in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee that Twitter users flagged to Musk on Sunday. The committee’s duties include reviewing proposed legislation related to communications and media, as well as space and science — industries that Musk holds stock in.
“Probably not a great idea to troll a high ranking Senator with a history of taking down rich people,” one account tweeted at him. Musk appeared to brush this concern off, however, suggesting that Markey would be committing an abuse of power if he were to go after the platform.
Markey requested that Musk respond to the questions in his letter by Nov. 25.
The letter accuses Musk of “putting profits over people and his debt over stopping disinformation” in his decision to allow anyone to purchase a blue check mark, which was initially used to show an account was verified to be authentic.
“Twitter and its leadership have a responsibility to the public to ensure the platform doesn’t become a breeding ground for manipulation and deceit,” Markey stated.