Elon Musk Put On Notice For Corporate Misconduct By US Senator


Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) doesn’t sound thrilled with billionaire and perpetual public menace Elon Musk, who recently finalized his takeover of the social media platform Twitter.

On the site, Markey publicized concerns of his about someone’s ability to create a verified account impersonating him. On social media, verification generally indicates that the claimed owner of an account is its actual owner, which is especially useful in potentially volatile fields like politics and business. Amid Musk’s roll-out of some of his ideas, the accessibility of verification on Twitter significantly changed, with anyone who paid just eight dollars able to become verified — without checks by the company on who they actually were. Verified accounts quickly emerged that were impersonating high-profile interests like the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly. As for Markey, Musk replied on Twitter to the Senator’s worries with familiarly dismissive snark.

“A @washingtonpost reporter was able to create a verified account impersonating me—I’m asking for answers from @elonmusk who is putting profits over people and his debt over stopping disinformation. Twitter must explain how this happened and how to prevent it from happening again,” Markey posted on Friday. To that, Musk replied: “Perhaps it is because your real account sounds like a parody?” At Twitter, the company apparently swiftly changed access to verification after the deluge of accounts faking the identity of high-profile figures, but for some, the damage was done. The stock price at Eli Lilly plummeted, and the company put advertising on Twitter on hold. “One of your companies is under an FTC consent decree,” Markey replied. “Auto safety watchdog NHTSA is investigating another for killing people. And you’re spending your time picking fights online. Fix your companies. Or Congress will.”

The consent decree (which is a legally binding agreement) to which Markey referred covers Twitter and demands disclosures “whenever the company experiences a change in structure, including mergers and sales,” as CNN summarized it. Reports to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) must be made within two weeks of covered changes at the company, and at Twitter, substantial numbers of people have departed the company since Musk took over, although it’s unclear whether the appropriate federal filings were made. The agreement predates Musk, but he is still bound by it, and the federal agency that is the other party to the agreement said on Twitter it was “tracking recent developments at Twitter with deep concern.” There have also been further significant changes to the way Twitter functions, although some were undone. The investigation Markey mentioned is into Tesla, where Musk remains in a position of leadership and where the stock price has also taken significant hits in association with unfolding developments at Twitter.