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Twitter users impersonate video game companies, causing mayhem

No, Mario wasn’t actually flipping you off

(Washington Post illustration; Nintendo)

Several Twitter accounts have used Twitter Blue’s purchasable blue check to pose as video game companies. Some posted fake announcements for new (sadly nonexistent) games. One account, posing as Nintendo of America, posted an image of Mario flipping the middle finger.

“Mario would never do that,” complained one person on Twitter.

“Well he did,” responded the Nintendo impostor.

It’s been a tumultuous time for Twitter. On Nov. 1, the social media company rolled out changes to Twitter Blue, allowing subscribers to receive the iconic blue check badge for $7.99 a month. The change has led to widespread confusion. The blue check previously meant that the account owner’s identity had been verified by the company; now, it simply means a user has paid for Blue.

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Twitter disabled sign-ups for Twitter Blue on Friday, citing “impersonation issues” in a note sent to Twitter employees that was viewed by The Washington Post.

One user paid for Twitter Blue for an account named @valvesotfware (note the clever typo), posing as video game publisher and distributor Valve to post a fake game sequel announcement, bamboozling some gamers. Later, the account posted a follow-up tweet addressed to Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, about how easily the new Twitter Blue can be used to spread misinformation.

“Twitter Blue is a problem, misinformation is so easy to spread … You now own a massive platform and this what you choose to do with it, do better,” the account wrote.

Yet another account, @RockstarGamse, impersonated the Grand Theft Auto developer with a false update on the studio’s upcoming title, “Grand Theft Auto VI.” All of these accounts were eventually suspended.

A Twitch parody account, which uses “twitch” as its display name but clearly describes itself as a parody account in its bio, is still active. On Wednesday, the account tweeted fake changes to Twitch’s controversial revenue split. (Twitch is owned by Amazon, whose founder, Jeff Bezos, owns The Washington Post). Musk has previously said that Twitter users will be suspended if caught imitating other parties, but that parody accounts will still be allowed.

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Currently, the only way to check if an account’s blue check means it’s a verified account or a Twitter Blue subscriber is to click on the badge itself next to the account’s display name. A Twitter Blue account will be defined as “verified because it’s subscribed to Twitter Blue,” while a blue check through Twitter’s previous verification system will indicate that the account is “verified because it’s notable” as a public figure.

Musk, who acquired Twitter for $44 billion in October, has been a popular target for impersonators. Comedian Kathy Griffin and actor Valerie Bertinelli posed as Musk as jabs against Twitter’s new verification system.

Musk has drawn widespread criticism for his aggressive early changes to Twitter. His approach to content moderation has made advertisers wary, and Musk threatened a “thermonuclear name & shame” campaign against brands that left the platform. Last week, he initiated layoffs, aiming to cut close to half the company’s staff.