Elon Musk cast some doubt on his own declaration that comedy is now ‘legal” on Twitter after suspending several accounts — including those belonging to actual comedians Sarah Silverman and Kathy Griffin — for parodying him over the weekend.
Taking advantage of these last fleeting days before a blue checkmark costs $8 a month, Griffin and Silverman changed their profile pictures and display names to match Musk’s and had a bit of fun. For instance, Silverman pointedly tested the courage of Musk’s convictions, tweeting, “I am a freedom of speech absolutist and I eat doody for breakfast every day.”
Griffin, meanwhile, used the bit for some pre-midterms rallying, writing, “After much spirited discussion with the females in my life, I’ve decided that voting blue for their choice is only right. (They’re also sexy females, btw.) #VoteBlueToProtectWomen.”
Other people who spoofed Musk — and faced the consequences — included everyone from writer and former pro football player Chris Kluwe and journalist Christopher Hooks to Mad Men actor Rich Sommer. Sommer got in a particularly vicious barb about Musk’s flailing efforts to keep advertisers with his outrageously staunch convictions about free speech, reportedly quipping, “Does anyone know any advertisers who are, like, kind of ‘into’ racism NOT ACTUAL RACISTS!! just ad ppl who are, y’know, curious about what it’s all about (racism).”
Now to be somewhat fair to Musk, using a verified account to impersonate another verified account was a bannable offense before he took over. (Comedian Jaboukie Young-White is the undisputed master of this, once pretending to be the FBI on Martin Luther King Day and tweeting, “Just because we killed MLK doesn’t mean we can’t miss him.”) But Musk’s ostensible free speech absolutism, combined with his ostensible love of comedy — this is a guy who reportedly tried desperately to get Nathan Fielder to laugh at his jokes — adds a truly delicious dimension to it.
Along with suspending the aforementioned accounts for their “crimes,” Musk outlined some new policy points to address the supposed problem on Sunday. “Going forward, any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying ‘parody’ will be permanently suspended,” Musk said, “Previously, we issued a warning before suspension, but now that we are rolling out widespread verification, there will be no warning. This will be clearly identified as a condition for signing up to Twitter Blue. Any name change at all will cause temporary loss of verified checkmark.”
It’s unclear if those rules have actually kicked in, though, or whether they’ll even be adhered to. YouTuber and podcast host Ethan Klein earned himself a ban after changing his profile to match Musk’s despite clearly putting “parody account” in his bio and header. It seems like Musk is still learning to take a joke, especially one like Klein’s: “Ghislaine Maxwell is an extremely decent woman who I had the pleasure of meeting several years ago,” Klein tweeted. “It’s a shame she’s been demonized and ran over by the press. #FreeGhislaine.”