Twitter Users Find Themselves Stuck With Their Holiday Nicknames

Elon Musk, the famously thin-skinned Twitter CEO, is mad about being impersonated thanks to his own decisions, and now everyone is being punished.

Twitter Users Find Themselves Stuck With Their Holiday Nicknames
Photo:Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/Getty, @dojacat/Twitter

There’s a longstanding tradition on Twitter of changing one’s display name to reflect the current holiday spirit. Had I participated during Halloween, I might be “FRIGHTlie Cheung”—and thank god I didn’t, because since Elon Musk’s takeover, it looks like I’d be stuck with that name for the foreseeable future.

But many a blue check account are now finding themselves in this predicament. As of Thursday, Doja Cat’s display name remains “christmas.” “Why can’t I change my name on here,” she asked on Twitter on Wednesday evening, adding, “How do I change it also fuck you Elon.” The explicit tweet has since been deleted, but she further pleaded her case in a toned-down, follow-up tweet: “i don’t wanna be christmas forever @elonmusk please help i’ve made a mistake.”

The issue appears to be rampant: “Nothing describes what’s happening to Twitter better than the fact that I’m now permanently stuck with the Halloween handle ‘O’Horror,’” one user, @MaryEmilyOHara, wrote on Wednesday. Journalist Katelyn Burns, @transscribe, reported a similar issue earlier this week, when she found herself stuck with her Halloween-themed “Katelyn Boo-urns” display name, although she was eventually able to change it. On Thursday morning, another verified user, journalist Kevin Hueler, also tweeted that he was unable to change his display name to remove a rat emoji.

The complications come after Musk rolled out his ill-advised verification plan this week that allows paid Twitter Blue subscribers to become verified for $8/month. The update is a transparent means to delegitimize journalists and news outlets and a money-grab to compensate for lost revenue as advertisers flee the incompetent businessman’s site in droves, even as $8/month is frankly a drop in the bucket. Musk’s verification update has since blown up spectacularly in his face: The prevalence of blue checks has resulted in rampant, honestly comical impersonations of public figures, from LeBron James to former President George W. Bush. But the only impersonations that Musk really seems to care about are those targeting him.

Over the last several days, users ranging from comedian Kathy Griffin to H3H3 Productions have been permanently banned by Twitter for changing their display names and avatars, impersonating Musk, and posting tweets about drinking urine and begging Grimes to come back to them. These permanent suspensions happened even after Musk formerly tweeted that he opposes permanent suspensions for any reason; but I guess that all changed after a verified “Italian Elon Musk” tweeted about not paying taxes and sending calzones to space.

Restrictions on changing display names appeared to begin over the weekend, at the height of Musk impersonations. Despite incessantly mocking critics and triggered libs for weeks about the $8/month plan, it’s really only made things worse for Musk. Fake “verified” Elon Musks are proliferating, and the CEO has all but admitted he has no real plan to stop any of this. In a Twitter Spaces talk on Wednesday, he said that Twitter Blue-verified impersonators would be flagged, lose their verification, and not get their money back, but admitted “they can keep doing this” over and over. He’s essentially subjecting Twitter’s remaining, virtually nonexistent content moderation team to an endless game of whack-a-mole, and unsurprisingly, it’s not working.

Earlier this week, a verified LeBron James impersonator tweeted a retirement announcement that drew thousands of likes and retweets before being taken down hours later. Fake, verified accounts for Bush and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair tweeted about missing “killing Iraqis.” A verified OJ Simpson account confessed to killing his late ex-wife, and a verified Rudy Giuliani is slurring his words. A verified Musk announced Twitter Gold, “a free subscription that gets you yearly family vacations and nightly dinner with me. If your name is Grimes. Please come back.”

Don’t get me wrong—I’m living for the comedic value of all of this. But a website that millions rely on for credible information is untenable under these conditions. Musk himself doesn’t seem to care about any of these problems with proliferating disinformation unless he’s the one being impersonated. Case in point:

Continuing down this path will hurt those with less power, like female journalists or feminist activists who will inevitably be impersonated by right-wing trolls. Many—from Doja Cat to much smaller public figures—are already paying the price with inconvenient, fun-killing restrictions on changing display names. Most alarmingly, hateful, bigoted accounts spreading violent disinformation are being accorded legitimacy through paid verification. And I highly doubt $8/month will pay the bills when even more advertisers jump ship from a toxic platform brimming with fake verified NBA players and fake verified politicians spewing the N-word.

Twitter is quite literally imploding before our eyes, between Doja very publicly flipping off the “Chief Twit” and Musk’s fellow billionaire Mark Cuban telling him he’s made the website unusable. As Musk scrambles to re-hire the workers he accidentally laid-off—genius that he is!—it’s no wonder why so many reportedly don’t want to come back. The place is a dumpster-fire, rolling out flaccid “Official” badges only to withdraw them hours later, as its economic woes deepen by the day under a CEO who spent more on the website than he could afford, all because some photos of his real, balding hairline hurt his feelings.

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