Musk’s changes create Twitter blues for government agencies


Written by Benjamin Freed

Twitter’s upheaval since its takeover last month by Elon Musk has already been accompanied by thousands of firings, cheers and scorn from political actors and on-the-fly changes to the social network’s products. In particular, Musk has made repeated changes to the “Verified” status that some users enjoy, as well as to the premium “Twitter Blue” platform.

One of Musk’s biggest changes to Twitter Blue removed the requirement for users to verify their identity, meaning that for $7.99 a month, online troublemakers could open accounts by doing pass for influential figures – often Musk himself – including one of those blue checkmarks that until recently conferred authenticity. There have also been numerous accounts parodying big companies, like Lockheed Martin and Eli Lilly, both of which saw their stock prices plunge after misleading tweets. Suitor accounts have mostly been suspended, while new Twitter Blue subscriptions are suspended, Musk said.

But it’s not just celebrities and brands who could see their Twitter presence upended in the wake of Musk’s $44 billion leveraged buyout. Government agencies that use the platform as a channel to disseminate urgent and life-saving information to their constituents are also worried.

“My public sector clients are losing faith in Twitter’s platform, fearing being spoofed, and actively seeking other platforms to leak their time-sensitive information,” Rachel Tobac, managing director of SocialProof Security, told State Scoop.

Tobac’s company specializes in preventing social engineering schemes that attempt to use Twitter and other social platforms.

Since its emergence in the late 2000s, Twitter has become a standard component of state and local government messaging toolkits, especially for agencies that need to get information out there as quickly as possible. In 2010, 81% of states used Twitter regularly, according to a survey released that year by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers. Since then, its use by the public sector has only grown, from traffic and weather alerts to statewide accounts cracking cheeky jokes.

Text transfer

One of the reasons government agencies have latched onto and stuck to Twitter is that it’s more linear and text-based than other social networks, like Instagram and Facebook, which prioritize visual media, he said. Tobacco.

“Public sector announcements need to happen where people are and where they will be reported,” she wrote in a direct message. “Right now, it’s Twitter. The textual nature of Twitter allows for the rapid dissemination of emergency alerts, which is less possible on other social media platforms.

Government accounts were among the first user groups to receive checkmarks when Twitter first rolled out verification, which was initially also available to elected officials, celebrities, corporations and media workers. . The feature was created to let all users know that the checked accounts were actually the people and companies in the profile names.

This detail was highlighted last week in a wire published the Washington Division of Emergency Management after Musk’s Twitter introduced, canceled and then reintroduced a second checkmark indicating “official” status. The agency also noted other ways to confirm his online identity, such as his account being linked to his official website on the .gov domain and the fact that government agencies tend to follow each other.

Reminding Twitter users of an account’s authorship has also become crucial in the fight against election-related misinformation and disinformation. For the past two cycles, the National Association of Secretaries of State has promoted a “#TrustedInfo” campaign, urging voters to seek information about polling places and election results only from authentic sources.

“We existed and prospered before”

If Twitter under Musk can’t stabilize — or if its policies drive users away — the site will lose its place as a source of government news, Tobac told StateScoop. Alternative platforms that have emerged since Musk’s takeover, like Mastodon, aren’t big enough to be viable replacements, she said.

“Twitter is the only text transfer site where the masses are,” Tobac said.

Washington’s Division of Emergency Management won’t be devastated if Twitter goes bankrupt. The agency – along with the rest of civilization – survived long before the company was founded in 2006 as a niche microblogging site.

Among the division’s other messaging tools is the Wireless Emergency Alert System which sends messages directly to residents’ mobile devices and has a far greater reach than any social media network.

“We existed and thrived before Twitter,” said Karina Shagren, spokeswoman for the Washington Military Department, the division’s parent agency. “We certainly appreciate this tool. We find a lot of value in using it, but we go at it day by day.


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