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A verified AOC parody account got a boost from Elon Musk’s Twitter

The account impersonating the congresswoman was suspended in 2019. Musk brought it back and helped it go viral.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images

A verified Twitter account mocking Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has skyrocketed in followers and engagement over the last two days, with some help from Elon Musk. Twitter appeared to reinstate the once-banned account in May, with Musk soon interacting with it and boosting its following.

Twitter has promoted the parody account in other ways, too, including ranking it first in search results for “AOC,” above Ocasio-Cortez’s official account.

On Tuesday, the account garnered wide attention on the platform after the real Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “FYI there’s a fake account on here impersonating me and going viral. The Twitter CEO has engaged it, boosting visibility. It is releasing false policy statements and gaining spread. I am assessing with my team how to move forward. In the meantime, be careful of what you see.”

Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., appeared to be referencing @AOCPress, which is marked as a parody account but looks close to identical to the congresswoman’s real account when users scroll through their feeds. Parody accounts are required to mark themselves as impersonators on their profiles, but that marking gets cut off when viewing the @AOCPress account’s tweets in the feeds of the mobile application.

The account is fooling some of the people who read its tweets — bringing to life some of the fears about Musk’s paid verification system that stripped legacy verified users of their blue check marks. In the replies, there is a mix of responses from people taking the tweets at face value and attributing them to the real Ocasio-Cortez, while others point out that it’s a parody account. 

The account’s most viral tweet plays into a sexist trope that Musk and other conservatives have embraced since his Twitter takeover — that Ocasio-Cortez is secretly attracted to him.

“This might be the wine talking, but I’ve got a crush on @elonmusk,” the parody account tweeted on May 28. The next day, Musk replied with a fire emoji. The tweet has been viewed more than 26 million times, according to Twitter’s metrics, and has more than 60,000 likes.

Among other viral tweets Ocasio-Cortez may have been referencing is one that pledged $3 trillion in reparations to the transgender community and another that suggested sending 10 million Americans to Ukraine. 

The parody account actually has existed since November 2018 but the following year, under Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s leadership, it was permanently suspended for its “misleading” parody content. When Musk took over the company in 2022, the account was reinstated and some of the new policies have appeared to amplify it.

According to Social Blade, a social media analytics tracker, the Ocasio-Cortez parody account had 85,000 followers in May 2019, the month it was suspended for impersonating the congresswoman. 

After the account’s restoration in May 2023, it immediately lost over 16,000 followers. Then, the account shot back up to over 80,000 followers on May 29, after Musk replied to it. On May 30, the day Ocasio-Cortez responded to the account, it gained over 100,000 followers. It has continued to climb, reaching over 292,000 followers as of publication. 

The @AOCPress account was first started by Michael Morrison, whose Twitter profile identifies him as a member of the New York Young Republicans Club. In May 2019, Morrison’s personal account and the parody account were both permanently suspended. 

Morrison posted about the suspensions on his account on the conservative social media platform Gab, where he also posted from a parody of Ocasio-Cortez’s official account between April 2019 and July 2019. The posts shared on Gab were more sexually explicit and the account reshared posts from other users that contained racist slurs. 

In November 2022, Morrison tweeted about his personal account being restored under Musk’s new leadership. The @AOCPress account wasn’t restored until May 2023. 

When reached for comment over Twitter direct messages, Morrison told NBC News he no longer runs the @AOCPress account and that it’s run by what he believes to be “a team of people.” The parody account didn’t respond to a request for comment. 

Another popular conservative tweeter, “@catturd2,” has played into rumors that he is behind the account, tweeting “I can’t confirm or deny that, but hey, you might want to follow” on May 22, the day the account was restored.