As Twitter began removing legacy verification badges Thursday, impersonators quickly took advantage of the situation by creating parody accounts for public figures, including celebrities and politicians.
After their real accounts lost their blue check marks, impersonator accounts quickly emerged for users such as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling, the City of New York, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, Twitch streamer Hasan Piker and former Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
As of Friday morning, Twitter accounts impersonating Clinton, Rowling, New York and Piker were suspended.
Accounts with verified blue check marks had been awarded the badges by the company’s previous leadership to identify accounts belonging to public organizations and high-profile users. The platform announced it would wind down the system officially Thursday.
The check marks, which were free, are now available through Twitter Blue — a subscription service the company launched last year.
Some public figures have kept their badges, courtesy of Twitter owner Elon Musk, while many more lost verification, adding to confusion around the real accounts of its high-profile users.
Programmer Travis Brown tweeted that only 28 legacy verified accounts joined Twitter Blue following Thursday’s purge. Brown said his findings are based off data pulled from the company's API, which offers developers access to the platform's data.
The removal of the check marks has already prompted fears that Twitter users will have one less tool to distinguish known sources from impersonators or hoaxes.
“I can practically *feel* the coming uptick in scamming,” one user wrote, attaching photos of now-unverified official government accounts.
Some have also worried about how the lack of verification will have an impact on real-time disaster response.
"This seems like it could be a problem, particularly during an emergency," one user wrote, taking a screenshot of an exchange between the New York City Government account and an account parodying it.
Twitter has struggled to manage impersonators on the platform since introducing paid verification through its Twitter Blue program in November.
NBA player LeBron James and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani were among the public figures to be impersonated at the time. The incident caused Twitter to temporarily pull its paid verification feature.
In November, Musk tweeted that “any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying ‘parody’ will be permanently suspended.”
Twitter’s policy states that users “may not misappropriate the identity of individuals, groups, or organizations or use a fake identity to deceive others.” The platform now describes verified accounts as “verified because they are subscribed to Twitter Blue and verified their phone number.”