A wave of new paid blue tick accounts impersonating influential individuals and brands has led to chaos and confusion on Twitter.
Fake “verified” accounts in the names of politicians, celebrities, major organisations and businesses started appearing on the platform on Thursday.
Twitter suspended many of them, but the company’s rapidly changing attempts to address the issue added to the confusion.
Experts had previously warned that the new Twitter Blue subscription service announced by new chief Elon Musk, which allows users to pay $7.99 per month for a blue tick, would be immediately exploited by bad actors and scammers, and erode trust in the platform.
The extent of the problem with new fake blue tick accounts was laid bare after the feature launched on Wednesday.
Blue tick versions of major brand accounts such as Apple, Nintendo, BP and Chiquita were suspended. Fake accounts posing as high-profile individuals like Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg, current and former US Presidents Joe Biden, Donald Trump and George W Bush, and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair were also removed.
In one case, an account in the name of Republican candidate for Arizona governor Kari Lake tweeted to announce she was conceding to her Democratic opponent, despite the fact votes are still being counted in the tight race. It took hours for Twitter to remove the tweet and the fake account.
A fake Tesla account, another company owned by Mr Musk, joked about 9/11, while Mr Musk himself was impersonated.
One of the most disruptive accounts impersonated US pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, and declared “insulin is free now”.
The company had to distance itself from the fake announcement.
The paid blue tick system is also being exploited by conspiracy theorists and far-right activists.