The Twitter Crypto giveaway scam has earned itself a place in the scam hall of fame, alongside fake monks and Nigerian Princes. And no public figure has been impersonated more than Elon Musk.
I was privileged enough to witness one of these scams in real time earlier this month. In my sleep-deprived stupor, it was so convincing that I was sent in a furious flurry of Google searching, half persuaded that Musk himself had decided to get in on the notorious scam. Shockingly, Twitter had promoted the fake tweet despite assuring users that they were doing their upmost to prevent these prolific fraudsters.
Musk himself has expressed surprise at how convincing these fake accounts have become, tweeting back in July “I want to know who is running the Ethereum scambots! Mad skillz …”
On October the 22nd, he decided to embrace it and tweeted a cute animation of Sailor Moon (from the popular Manga series of the same name) proudly adorned in orange and re-imagined as every Bitcoin fanboys dream woman: young, beautiful and completely 2D.
Musk subsequently had his account frozen by vigilant Twitter staff, acting faster against the man himself than they ever have against actual scammers. Back in March, Twitter allowed an Elon Ethereum scam to linger for so long, it prompted the BBC to write an article on the subject, ending the piece with ‘At the time of publication, the fake Elon Musk post had been up on the platform for 11 hours and remained visible.’
Elon Musk is not the only victim of impersonation: John McAfee, Charlie Lee and Donald Trump are among the other figures favoured by scam artists worldwide.
It doesn’t reflect well on Twitter to have struggled with this problem for so long. Twitter denies the existence of shadow-banning despite countless genuine people experiencing a sudden drop in their interactions seemingly overnight while spam accounts operate for weeks and months undisturbed. Innocent images end up blocked behind a NSFW warning while full on pornography can be seen displayed freely by the many, many bot accounts.
Perhaps Twitter shouldn’t be relying on robots and algorithms to stop these scams, especially when it results in the freezing of one of their most popular users account.