Twitter Blue and brand safety risks on social media
Elon Musk finally finalized the acquisition of Twitter at the end of October, a process that had been in the works since mid-April 2022. Musk made several changes to the platform once the acquisition was completed. The “Twitter Blue” initiative was one of them, which alerted the users, impacting several notable brands.
This new initiative enables anyone, including people and organizations, to acquire a blue verified badge by paying a monthly fee of $8 USD. This new service has become a cause for concern for many top brands.
In its program description, Twitter states that the definition of “being verified” and the accompanying blue tick have changed. In the past, to obtain a blue tick, a brand would have to pass a verification process with complex criteria, including being active, notable, and authentic.
Now, blue tick accounts can either be those that have been verified as genuine and authentic, or those that are active, paid subscribers of “Twitter Blue”.
The problem is, accounts that subscribe to Twitter Blue do not have to undergo verification to confirm that they meet the active, notable, and authentic criteria used in the previous blue tick verification process. That way, anyone, including impersonators, can have a blue tick beside their account name.
This situation carries a risk to brand security. Counterfeit accounts can create confusion amongst consumers, which in turn can damage brand reputation.
Sure enough, a few hours after the program ran, fake accounts with blue ticks sprouted rapidly. Nestlé, Apple, Pepsico, and Musk’s own brand, SpaceX, were among the victims. These fake accounts tweeted hoaxes and controversial content. Apple’s impersonator account, for example, posted a tweet about a new product release.
Twitter itself was also a victim. A fake account impersonating the official Twitter account with the blue verified badge posted a series of tweets claiming that NFT holders can now get Twitter Blue for free by authenticating their wallet assets. Subsequent tweets directed users to ‘authenticate’ their digital assets by accessing suspicious links, such as ‘twitter-blue.com’ and ‘twitterblue.com’. Tweets like this clearly carry the risk of phishing, fraud, or even malware for consumers.
The existence of these uncontrolled fake accounts drove brands and agencies to temporarily cease advertising on the platform. As a result, Musk delayed the official launch of the program.
The importance of brands
For perpetrators of brand infringement, all of these acts are carried out with basically the same goal: to take advantage of a brand’s reputation for their benefit. A well-known trademark is something that is very valuable, even more so than the actual value of the product it represents.
For brand owners, the consequence of brand infringement is, of course, loss of revenue. The rise of counterfeit goods in the name of well-known brands has resulted in consumers potentially being trapped in buying phony products—whether consciously or not.
However, a consequence that is no less detrimental is the potential for damage to consumer confidence and trust in the brand. This was a concern for brand managers and advertising agencies when brand impersonators were rampant on Twitter a while ago.
Brand protection over time
Essentially, brands are a form of claimed ownership over a product or innovation. Eventually, trademark infringement and seizures are risks that must be faced by brand owners.
In the digital era, these risks are increasingly being proliferated by technology that continues to evolve. On the one hand, the internet, especially social media, creates more opportunities for companies to build awareness and maintain brands.
However, on the other hand, due to the immense reach and openness of social media, threats to brand security have increased dramatically, including the risk of intellectual property (IP) theft, the circulation of counterfeit goods, domain spoofing, phishing attacks, social media impersonation, and others.
Nowadays, brand protection efforts not only ensure that brands are legally registered and place advertisements in appropriate places, but also combine all efforts to prevent their consumers from engaging with harmful content through others who impersonate them on social media, such as in the case of Twitter Blue. One brand protection effort is the monitoring of social media.
Each social media platform has its own brand safety policy. In general, they allow brand owners to report violations. If the violation is proven, they will take down the content or account.
Brands can take advantage of this policy. Comprehensive monitoring and prompt enforcement are essential to reduce the number of consumers who are victimized.
However, monitoring is not a simple job. It takes special strategies, consistency, and professional human resources in this field.
Integrity Asia stands ready to help brand owners protect their brand identity and reputation by fighting the infringement of their products. Apart from removing counterfeit products on online channels, Integrity Asia is also experienced in continuous monitoring to detect and identify whether the infringed product is being re-offered using a different account or channel.
Photo by Souvik Banerjee on Unsplash