Verified Twitter accounts impersonating LeBron James, Aroldis Chapman send out fake tweets

Spoof accounts began to appear Wednesday after the launch of the Twitter Blue subscription service, which lets users pay to signify verification.

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Twitter is now under the ownership of Elon Musk, and some users are already exploiting the platform’s new for-purchase verification badges by posing as high-profile athletes and brands.

According to NBC News, many blue checks on Twitter accounts already belong to well-known people, organizations and journalists. Spoof accounts began to appear Wednesday afternoon after the social media platform formally launched the $7.99-a-month version of its Twitter Blue subscription service, which lets users pay for blue check marks signifying verification.

NBA star LeBron James and MLB pitcher Aroldis Chapman were among the parodied players.

LeBron James, Aroldis Chapman impersonated on Twitter
Following the rollout of Twitter’s $7.99-a-month verification badges for anyone who chooses to pay, NBA star LeBron James (left) and MLB pitcher Aroldis Chapman (right) have been impersonated by phony accounts. (Photos: Ethan Miller/Getty Images and Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

James was impersonated in a false tweet from a verified account with the handle @KINGJamez. The post claimed he had asked his longtime team, the Los Angeles Lakers, for a trade.

A bogus Twitter account also featured NHL center Connor McDavid.

Twitter has suspended all three of the fictitious accounts.

“We’re not currently putting an ‘Official’ label on accounts but we are aggressively going after impersonation and deception,” the Twitter Support account tweeted on Wednesday, according to NBC.

Another verified and subsequently suspended account claimed to be from the video game maker Nintendo of America with the name @nlntendoofus. It tweeted an image of the Mario character making an offensive gesture.

TechCrunch reported that the two types of blue check accounts could no longer be visually distinguished when tweets appear in Twitter’s timeline. To do so, one would need to click through to the user’s follower count — which isn’t always a trustworthy indicator — or look for any hints in their previous tweets. The copy that appears when users click on the check mark directly from a profile page is different, but it is supposedly subject to change.

Luckily, tweets from the aforementioned fake accounts gained traction and attracted the attention of Twitter moderators, resulting in their suspension. But with only half the staff it had previously, Twitter likely can’t discover phony accounts after the fact if it doesn’t verify them at the time of payment.

According to TechCrunch, Twitter’s standing as a trustworthy news source will certainly be impacted.

Musk’s approach also threatens the presence of celebrities on Twitter, whose messages keep the platform interesting for regular users. The platform’s valuation will reportedly drop relatively quickly, along with its ad revenue, if users cannot locate notable individuals like athletes, politicians and movie stars to follow.

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