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Sen. Ed Markey hits back at Elon Musk after his response to impersonation questions

Elon Musk’s Twitter profile is seen on a smartphone placed on printed Twitter logos in this photo illustration taken on April 28, 2022.

Given Ruvic | Reuters

Sen. Ed Markey chastised Twitter owner Elon Musk Sunday for his response to Markey̵[ads1]7;s request for answers about the platform’s new verification and impersonation policies.

After a Washington Post reporter managed to create a fake verified account pretending to be the Massachusetts Democrat, Markey shared a letter to Musk on Twitter Friday asks him to “explain how this happened and how to prevent it from happening again.”

In response, Musk wrote back to Markey in a tweet Sunday and said, “Maybe it’s because your real account sounds like a parody?”

Markey didn’t seem to appreciate Musk’s response.

“One of your companies is under an FTC consent decree. Auto safety watchdog NHTSA is investigating another for killing people. And you spend your time picking fights online. Fix your companies. Or Congress will,” Markey wrote in a tweet Sunday.

Twitter appeared to have halted its $7.99-a-month Twitter Blue verification program shortly after the Post ran its test as impersonations of celebrities and brands spread across the platform.

But before the break, the Post was able to set up a Twitter handle called “@realEdMarkey” using “a spare iPhone, a credit card and some creativity.” The account received a blue verified tick, even though Markey already has two legitimate verified accounts.

The blue check is supposed to be a feature of the paid Twitter Blue, but the Post reporter found that Twitter said the fake Markey account was verified “because it is notable in government, news, entertainment or another designated category.”

Twitter has recently lost key privacy and content moderation leaders.

“Security measures like Twitter’s blue tick once allowed users to be smart, critical consumers of news and information in Twitter’s global town square,” Markey wrote in his letter to Musk. “However, your takeover of Twitter, rapid and haphazard imposition of platform changes, removal of safeguards against disinformation, and firing of large numbers of Twitter employees have accelerated Twitter’s descent into the Wild West of social media.”

Markey asked Musk to respond to his questions in writing by November 25.

The exchange between Musk and Markey on Twitter is not the first time the pair have gone head-to-head.

Musk is also the CEO of the automaker Tesla, and Tesla’s driver assistance systems are labeled Autopilot and Full Self Driving in the U.S. During a series of Tesla crashes in August 2021, Markey and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) expressed “serious concerns” about the way the company advertises these technologies. They asked the Federal Trade Commission to open an investigation.

The senators also asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in June to take “aggressive investigative and enforcement action on vehicles with automated driving systems (ADS) and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS)” after the administration released data showing more than 500 crashes involving vehicles with them the technologies.

— CNBC’s Lauren Feiner and Laura Kolodny contributed to this report.

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