It is an understatement to say it: between massive and brutal layoffs and noisy and worrying resignations from the teams responsible for the security of the platform, the first weeks of Elon Musk’s reign on a Twitter that he swallowed and ravaged from top to bottom fills for 44 billion dollars are not a calm river.
One of the most emblematic decisions of the also boss of Tesla and SpaceX was to upset the process of certification of accounts on the platform.
Until now, the little blue badge attached to the name of the account to guarantee its official character required identity verification, and was only reserved for certain subscribers – companies, politicians, journalists, celebrities, etc.
It was, of course, the simplest and most obvious way put in place by the platform’s former management teams to stem the wave of fake accounts and imitations that could scare away brands, advertisers and personalities.
But Musk, who needs to quickly pay off the huge debt (and interest payments) he created when he bought a new toy that has always struggled to be profitable, needs to create cash flow. And if he wants to avoid a bankruptcy he is considering publicly, he needs it fast.
So very quickly and seemingly without thinking, he allowed anyone who wanted to, for an $8 per month subscription to Twitter Blue, to see their accounts endowed with this desirable little blue button. “Power to the people”he exclaimed, comparing the old certification system to the feudal world of “lords and peasants”.
Twitter’s current lords & peasants system for who has or doesn’t have a blue checkmark is bullshit.
Power to the people! Blue for $8/month.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 1, 2022
All without any verification, except that the account in question had indeed 8 dollars attached to any means of payment. You must not be rocket scientist to guess what chaos and what confusions the new policy could engender.
Advertisers, who began to stop their advertising campaigns on the platform en masse, understood this very well – even pushing Musk to go through SpaceX, which curiously invested in advertising on Twitter, to catch up a little of his own blunder.
The decision to drop these verifications had other consequences and, immediately, his abyssal stupidity was exposed: an army of jokers and pranksters created fake “certified” official accounts, which did some real, very tangible damage.
A real-fake George W. Bush with an official badge explained that “he missed killing Iraqis”to which a fake-real Tony Blair replied “me too”. Elon was imitated by dozens of imitation Musks, to the point of having to bring in the real buyer of the platform.
The 12 billion joke
Brands and large companies were not spared; and things, on a legal level, are probably getting a lot tougher. With all the trappings of official certification, a perfectly false account of the Chiquita brand, considered “the mother of the banana republics”, thus announced the initiation of a coup in Brazil, forcing the real account to a funny of denial.
Thank you Elon, it has all been worth it for this. pic.twitter.com/yehQouh6rA
—Ryan Lackey (@octal) November 11, 2022
Lockheed Martin, the American arms giant, announced that it was stopping its arms sales to Saudi Arabia, Israel and even the United States, for reasons related to respect for human rights; this too was, of course, a “joke”.
Lockheed Martin $15 Billion or so loss in market cap, too, after an announcement via a fake, verified account, that “we will begin halting weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the United States until further investigation into the record of human rights abuse.” pic.twitter.com/oJY0qHPjBy
— Mr. Tshweu (@TshweuMoleme) November 12, 2022
But that, too, was an expensive joke. The loudest, most staggering example of this chaos came when a fake account from pharmaceutical juggernaut Eli Lilly announced that insulin would now be free in the United States, where market forces mean it can cost more than $1,000 a month to a sick person.
Insulin was invented ~100 years ago, and its patent sold for $1.
“Do you know the reason why [insulin is] $1,000 with insurance?” ~@AOC
There is no reason for insulin to cost $21 in Canada for a 10 ml bottle, while it costs a mortgage payment in the US.pic.twitter.com/K5XRJDTpJq
— Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) May 6, 2021
Highly political and very sensitive in the United States, the question of the price of insulin, a basic and accessible product in most countries of the world, came back to the table, putting Eli Lilly in a most delicate position and obliging it to deny, via his real official account this time, what seemed to be extremely positive news.
What could possibly go wrong?
— Gurbaksh Singh Chahal (@gchahal) November 11, 2022
But on the financial markets, sensitive to the slightest rumour, the damage was done. Just as Lockheed Martin’s fake tweet appeared to have seriously dented the firm’s share price, the lab (and its shareholders) were losing big within minutes of its fictitious announcement, with a gadin denting its market capitalization. of 12 big billion dollars.
Did Twitter Blue tweet just cost Eli Lilly $LLY trillion?
— Rafael Shimunov is on Mastodon (@rafaelshimunov) November 11, 2022
the shares of Eli Lilly tanked & loss billions after a tweet from a fake account verified by Twitter …imagine if someone had short the shares earlier & only cost $8 to verify that fake account. @elonmusk won’t understand until someone does it to Tesla pic.twitter.com/z93K2OMuFj
— Tan Keng Liang (@tankengliang) November 12, 2022
What could be seen as a mix of expensive humor and political activism also raises broad questions about possible market manipulation.
By “shorting” Eli Lilly stock before the rumor was launched and the stock crashed, thus speculating on a decline that they themselves could have caused for a few dollars, “investors” malicious could thus have pocketed juicy sums.
The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), American policeman of the financial markets, has long had trouble with Elon Musk, whose uncontrolled tweets around Tesla could, as early as 2018, be considered as pure and simple market manipulation.
The man then saw the regulator take a hard look at his case and, in particular, force him to have his publications checked before they are published on the platform.
It is likely that the same SEC is therefore very attentive to what is happening at the moment on Twitter, and decides to seriously bang its fist on the table. In the meantime, as an admission of failure and very short-sighted thinking, Twitter Blue has been put on hiatus.
It is also likely that the firms affected by these multi-billion dollar pranks will have some very unfriendly words to say to the little blue bird’s new sheet metal worker. After all, Musk is solely responsible for this slump: who knows if he couldn’t be held personally responsible for these losses, potentially dragging Tesla down with him.