For the 30 million Americans with diabetes, the news may be good. “We are happy to announce that insulin is now free”, pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly announced Friday on Twitter. In the country, the product can sometimes cost more than 1,000 dollars per month for patients who use it. But the hopes raised by the tweet were quickly dashed: nothing was true. Despite his name, his photo and, above all, his certification, often promising credibility, the Eli Lilly account, the source of the message with thousands of likes, is fake. And real business is now paying for comedy. In this case, $16 billion was lost in market capitalization.
At the root of this fall in the stock market? The certification policy change made by Elon Musk on Twitter. Politicians, journalists, companies… Before the interrupted arrival of the Tesla boss at the head of the network, this little blue badge was awarded to “known” users… subject to verification of their identity. With the billionaire and his “Twitter Blue” offer, verification is skipped: all you have to do is pay to get the certification, $7.99 per month. The offer, the businessman’s first big step as the new boss, was put on November 9. And suspended three days later. A big shout out to Elon Musk, fueling more criticism and attacks.
Pepsi extols the merits of Coca-Cola
Disaster is foreseeable. As reported by New York Times, Twitter Blue’s new offering needs to be set up by employees under pressure, in record time. And, with the moderation workforce down after the billionaire’s massive layoff, fake accounts have proliferated unhindered. However, in a market where digital rumors make and break fortunes, some companies have seen their cash flow shake. Like Eli Lilly, US defense equipment maker Lockheed Martin lost an estimated $15 billion in market capitalization after a fake blue-checked account announced it intended to quit “arms sales to Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States pending further investigation into human rights violations”.
Other groups suffered unflattering jokes. Like Nintendo: An Evil Double the video game design company posted a photo of franchise star Mario in full middle finger gloves. A fake Pepsi account started extolling the merits of its competitor Coca-Cola. And, in this digital catch-all, some activists found what they were looking for. “Just because we’re killing the planet doesn’t mean we won’t miss it 😢”, ironically an account imitating that of the oil company British Petroleum. Of course, personalities, such as Donald Trump, Georges Bush or Tony Blair, did not survive the crush. It wasn’t enough to reassure advertisers, who had been cooled off considerably by Elon Musk’s arrival at the helm.
What’s more, it’s annoying to the political class. In a verbal contest, US Senator Edward Markey threatening the boss : “Fix your businesses. Or Congress will.” The warning came after a journalist from Washington post managed to impersonate the Democrat – with his permission – on the platform. “Guarantees like Twitter’s blue tick once empowered users to be smart, critical consumers”he reminded the billionaire who, not a fan of criticism, sent him packing: “Maybe because your real account looks like a parody?” On the European side, the Minister Delegate for Digital Transition, Jean-Noël Barrot, also clap your fist monday : “It has been shown that a social network publisher cannot rely on a single payment of eight euros to avoid its duty to moderate illegal content”he denounced on his account.
The United States is more harmonious than Europe
These political pressures add to the long list of complaints of which Elon Musk is already the subject. Since the acquisition of Twitter, the boss of Tesla has been targeted by a collective action launched by former employees of the network who were dismissed without sufficient notice. Just last week, the US competition authority, the Federal Trade Commission, issued a warning against him after the departure (voluntary, this time) of several executives, including Damien Kieran, head of data privacy , Lea Kissner, Head of Security and Yoel Roth , Former Head of Trust and Safety. “We are following recent developments on Twitter with great concern. No CEO or company is above the law”said the agency.
Following their financial losses, could Eli Lilly and Lockheed Martin sue Musk? Contacted Releasethe first indicates “at this point” not allowed “inform the steps likely to be taken”. However, even if a complaint is filed, it is clear that it will surely be futile. Unlike Europe which, through the Digital Services Act, makes platforms more responsible for their content, the United States is more conciliatory. At issue: Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The text of this law written in 1996 guarantees the safety of sites and social networks that it considers “IT service providers” and are not publishers of information. In other words: even if Elon Musk’s strategy has initiated the emergence of fake accounts, the billionaire is not considered responsible for their publications. Quite a comfortable position.