Twitter has suspended comedian Kathy Griffin for impersonating the company’s new owner, Elon Musk.
Griffin appeared to be the first celebrity to lose her tweeting privileges after a wave of prominent users impersonated Musk over the weekend, with the goal of underscoring potential flaws in the social media company’s plans for a revised verification system.
Musk has made an $8 Twitter subscription plan his signature bid to bolster the company’s revenue. The new plan was hastily rolled out over the weekend before the company ultimately decided to delay the service until after the midterms.
The updated Twitter Blue subscription plan gives paying users the ability to get a blue check mark on their profiles, an option previously available exclusively to verified celebrities, politicians, journalists and other public figures. Musk proposed the new feature as a way to fight spam on the platform.
But the partially rolled-out plan faced widespread backlash, and in a display of defiance, some celebrities on the platform posed as Musk over the weekend, complete with a blue check mark on their profiles.
Comedian Sarah Silverman used her verified account to troll Musk, copying his profile picture, cover image and name. The only thing distinguishing a tweet coming Silverman’s account was the @SarahKSilverman handle.
“I am a freedom of speech absolutist and I eat doody for breakfast every day,” Silverman tweeted Saturday. Her account also retweeted posts supporting Democratic candidates.
Silverman’s account was labeled as “temporarily restricted” Sunday, with a warning that “there has been some unusual activity from this account” shown to visitors before clicking through to the profile. The comedian then changed her account back to its usual form, complete with her own name and image.
Television actress Valerie Bertinelli similarly changed her account name to the Twitter CEO’s, tweeting Friday that “[t]he blue checkmark simply meant your identity was verified. Scammers would have a harder time impersonating you. That no longer applies. Good luck out there!” She then answered a follower who asked how the checkmark no longer applies, writing, “[y]ou can buy a blue check mark for $7.99 a month without verifying who you are.”
After changing her profile name to Musk, Bertinelli tweeted and retweeted support for several Democratic candidates and hashtags, including “VoteBlueForDemocracy” and “#VoteBlueIn2022.”
The actress changed her account name back to Valerie Bertinelli Sunday, tweeting, “[o]key-dokey I’ve had my fun and I think I made my point.”
On Sunday, Musk tweeted that, “Going forward, any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying ‘parody’ will be permanently suspended.” He also tweeted that a name change on Twitter will “cause temporary loss of verified checkmark.”
Additionally, Musk said Twitter users will no longer receive warning before being suspended. “This will be clearly identified as a condition for signing up to Twitter Blue,” he tweeted.
Griffin’s account remained suspended Monday morning, and it was unclear how long it would remain in effect. Musk mocked Griffin Sunday, quipping that “she was suspended for impersonating a comedian.” Musk also tweeted that Griffin could get her account back by paying $8 a month for Twitter Blue, although it wasn’t clear whether Musk was serious.
CNN fired Griffin in 2017 after the comedian was photographed holding up a bloody head resembling that of then-President Donald Trump. Griffin had co-hosted the New Year’s Eve program alongside Anderson Cooper for a decade.
The crackdown on accounts comes in the wake of Musk purchasing the company and pledging to restore the accounts of users who were previously banned from the platform, most notably Trump. Musk has also said he will limit the company’s content restrictions and require the paid subscription for account verification.
In recent months, Musk has shared conspiracy theories about the attack on Paul Pelosi, called Democrats the party of “division & hate,” compared Twitter’s former CEO to Joseph Stalin and warned that “the woke mind virus will destroy civilization.”