As expected, Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter is going brilliantly – if by brilliantly you mean everything is on fire, and that fire is also on fire, and the fire engines are on fire too. In one of Musk's worst decisions so far, a list that's growing by the minute, the complete chaos of the new Twitter Blue verification system means there are tons of verified accounts pretending to be people or organisations they're not.
That's funny when they're pretending to be Elon Musk. It's not so funny when it's someone pretending to be a pharmaceutical company telling parents of diabetic kids that from now on insulin will be free in the US, or by someone doing massive reputational damage to a big brand.
The good news is that for us at least, there's an easy fix.
How to spot fake verified profiles on Twitter
At the moment there are two kinds of "blue ticks" on Twitter. There's the kind I and lots of other long-term Twitter users have, where I had to provide a government-issued ID and give Twitter evidence that I was a tech journalist before it would verify my account. That kind of verification is designed to say "hey, this person is who they claim to be" so you can be sure you're not talking to an impostor.
The other kind of blue tick looks identical, but you don't need to prove anything: hand over $8 for Twitter Blue (if it still exists; it's vanished from the apps today) and you too can be OJ Simpson, Tony Blair, George W Bush or the celebrity or brand of your choice. If you look really really closely you'll often see that the actual name isn't the right one, but that's quite time-consuming.
The solution? You could dump Twitter completely and use Mastodon instead, but if you're keen to stay on the cursed bird site then you can use Chrome and install the Eight Dollars extension. This does something very simple and very effective: when you look at a profile it tells you whether it's "actually verified" (hello!) or "paid for verification". That way you can see instantly whether a profile is likely to be a troll or something more sinister.
The only downside is that Twitter is adding and dropping features at a ridiculous rate, and by this time tomorrow there could be a completely different verification system in place. But for now, at least, Eight Dollars is the best way to stop the hoaxers from hiding their real identities.