If Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk is going to antagonize U.S. senators, he might want to think twice about taunting Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who sits on numerous subcommittees with oversight into his companies.
After a Washington Post reporter was able to create a verified Twitter account impersonating Markey on Saturday, the senator wrote a letter to Musk demanding an explanation. “Selling the truth is dangerous and unacceptable. Twitter must explain how this happened and how it will prevent it from happening again,” Markey wrote, adding that Twitter has become the “Wild West of social media.”
Seemingly unbothered by the proliferation of misinformation and disinformation on his platform, Musk replied to Markey with a snarky tweet on Sunday morning, writing, “Perhaps it is because your real account sounds like a parody?”
Musk followed up with another tweet mocking Markey for wearing a mask in his profile picture. “And why does your [profile picture] have a mask?!” he wrote.
All it took for Post reporter Geoffrey A. Fowler to create a fake verified Markey account, Fowler said, was “a spare iPhone, a credit card and a little creativity.” That’s because Musk launched a new Twitter Blue paid subscription that allows anyone with a spare $8 and a credit card to get a blue verified checkmark on their Twitter account. Before Musk’s takeover, those blue checks were largely reserved for notable public figures, celebrities, and journalists who confirmed their identity with the platform. Now, these newly verified accounts have been wreaking havoc. One tweet from a fake Eli Lilly account claiming the company would make insulin free sent its stock plummeting, causing the pharmaceutical giant to lose billions in stock value this past week.
This surely isn’t the last we’ll hear from Markey about Musk’s Twitter debacle, especially now that Democrats have maintained control over the Senate. The senator sits on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and is on numerous subcommittees that have oversight not only into Twitter but also two other Musk-owned companies, SpaceX and Tesla. Markey is a member of the Senate’s Subcommittee on Communication, Media and Broadband, as well as the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Data Security, both of which could investigate Twitter. He is also on the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, Maritime, Freight, and Ports. That subcommittee has oversight on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is currently investigating Tesla over the safety of its autopilot feature (as Markey put it, “for killing people”). And Markey sits on the Subcommittee on Space and Science, which has oversight on SpaceX.
As Markey wrote in a tweet responding to Musk, “Fix your companies. Or Congress will.”