How Twitter Chaos Toppled Pharmacy Stock Victim ‘Verified’ Fake Profile

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“We are pleased to announce that insulin is now free.”

Considering that drugmaker Eli Lilly sells a vial of insulin for $275, it’s understandable that Friday’s announcement on Twitter had a huge impact on the social network and beyond.

There was only one problem: the account that made the announcement, although it had the blue seal that until now certifies that the user’s identity had been verified by Twitter, was fake.

Someone had created the account and, using the new rules introduced on Twitter by Elon Musk, paid the $7.99 to add the badge to his account and impersonate the American pharmaceutical company.

The post racked up nearly 11,000 likes before being suspended.

The prank cost Eli Lilly millions of dollars as her stock dropped 4.3% the next day. Reputation damage is harder to calculate, but perhaps even greater.

Eli Lilly, this time from his real account, had to deny the information, causing a wave of criticism among users and commentators about the price the company charges for a drug that is vital for diabetics.

“We apologize to those who received a misleading message from a fake Lilly account,” the company tweeted, indicating the official account.

Nearly 7 million people have diabetes in the US, the country with the highest prices in the world for this drug, which can cost around $1,000 a month for those without health insurance. In Brazil, it is possible to obtain insulin through the SUS.

One of those who reacted negatively to the company was Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders, who favored more affordable healthcare in the US.

“Let’s be clear. Eli Lilly should apologize for raising the price of insulin by more than 1200% since 1996,” he wrote.

🇧🇷[Ela cobra] $275, while [a insulina] costs less than $10 to produce. The inventors of insulin sold their patents in 1923 for $1 to save lives, not to make the CEO of Eli Lilly obscenely rich.”

other cases

Eli Lilly is just one of dozens of victims of fake accounts that have proliferated on Twitter since its new owner decided to change the verification rules, causing chaos and confusion within the social network.

Among those affected are companies such as Apple, Nintendo and BP, as well as politicians, celebrities and other organizations.

Twitter has suspended many of the fake accounts, but the company’s constant changes to address the issue have added to the confusion.

Elon Musk finalized his $44 billion purchase of Twitter last October after months of negotiations.

The billionaire claimed that the social network had far more “bots”, that is, fake automated accounts, than its former owners had acknowledged. One of his goals would be, according to him, to end these fake accounts.

However, since taking control of the company, he has not only laid off about half of Twitter’s staff, about 7,500 employees, he has also launched a mechanism to sell the blue badge of a verified profile.

Until now, anyone who wanted the blue seal next to their name had to prove their identity to the company. However, with the launch of “Twitter Blue”, a new premium subscription service, only available to Apple devices in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK, users who want to can pay for the badge.

To do this, they just needed to provide an Apple ID and a phone number.

Numerous experts have warned of the dangers of Twitter Blue becoming a scammer’s paradise, something that, at least in its early days, seems to have come true.

The scope of the problem began to become clear on the same Wednesday that the tool was released.

Twitter has had to suspend dozens of fake accounts, including some posing as Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, President Joe Biden, his predecessor Donald Trump, or former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

In one case, a fake account in the name of Arizona Republican candidate Kari Lake gave her Democratic opponent the victory when in fact the vote count had not yet been finalized. Twitter took hours to remove the account.

Another fake account created with the blue seal was one by Tesla, which also belongs to the owner of Twitter. Someone impersonated Elon Musk himself to post about the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Refuge of Conspirators

The “Twitter Blue” system is also being exploited by conspiracyists and far-right activists.

The BBC’s monitoring team detected at least three accounts of influencers from the movement called QAnon who bought blue marks on Twitter.

Far-right activists Jason Kessler and Richard Spencer, who organized the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville (at which one person was killed and 35 injured), bought blue stamps.

Twitter had removed verification seals from Kessler and Spencer’s accounts after the violent demonstration five years ago.

The researchers also detected several accounts with blue stamps purchased using artificial intelligence-generated images of fake people.

This is particularly concerning as these types of accounts, commonly called “bots”, are often used by disinformation networks with the aim of influencing political events.

Twitter has suspended many of these fake accounts, but has had a hard time keeping up with the new “verified” fake accounts that appear.

As a workaround, new “official” gray badges began to be added on some high-profile accounts such as governments and media, but Musk scrapped the new badge almost immediately.

It’s not yet clear how Twitter plans to solve the problem of fake blue-label accounts in the long term.

Several experts have raised concerns about the damage that a lack of trust in Twitter’s verification system can cause during events such as mass shootings, terrorist attacks or natural disasters, when local authorities, police, emergency services and journalists often release important information and advice. .

The BBC reached out to Twitter but received no response.

This text was originally published here.

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