Twitter’s new boss, Elon Musk announced Monday that the company has suspended the relaunch of their $8 a month Blue Verified subscription program until they have a strong system in place to prevent the verification of impersonators such as a parody account of Jesus Christ with nearly 900,000 followers.
“Holding off relaunch of Blue Verified until there is high confidence of stopping impersonation,” Musk declared via his personal Twitter account. “Will probably use different color check for organizations than individuals.”
In a report published by Business Insider, the unidentified owner of the now-verified, Jesus Christ account on Twitter revealed he is not even a religious person but was finally able to get the account verified thanks to the suspended verification program on sale.
“I've applied for verification before and been rejected, but when Elon Musk changed the verification rules and you could subscribe to Twitter Blue and buy a verified check, I knew it was finally my time,” the owner of the parody Jesus Christ account said. “It was immediate. I bought the Twitter Blue subscription, and when I finished confirming Apple Pay and reopened Twitter, I was verified.”
Prior to the suspension of the Blue Verified program, verified users also falsely posed as LeBron James demanding a trade, George W. Bush attacking Iraqis and Eli Lilly & Co. cutting insulin prices to zero, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Eli Lilly & Co. was forced to clarify that insulin wasn’t free after thousands of Twitter users liked the tweet from the impersonating account.
“We apologize to those who have been served a misleading message from a fake Lilly account. Our official Twitter account is @LillyPad,” the company tweeted.
The parody Jesus Christ explained that one of the main reasons he verified the account is “to show how absurd the new system of verification is. It's like, obviously, I'm not Jesus. He doesn't have a Twitter account, so why am I able to be verified? It doesn't make sense.”
The Jesus Christ account owner, who has been on Twitter since 2008, said even though he started the account as satire, he still gets many prayer requests from around the world that he doesn’t know what to do with.
“People send me prayer requests. I think that they realize I'm not actually Jesus, but it's still soothing for them to send the request into the world anyway,” he said. “The requests come from all around the world and in different languages. Sometimes, I'll send a message back that's encouraging or something, but I'm very aware of the fact that I'm not a trained psychologist and don't have the professional credentials to be able to handle this kind of thing.”
He explained that one of the reasons he has opted to remain anonymous is because he gets death threats as well as insults from critics who believe he is blasphemous or going to Hell. He disagrees with that charge.
“I don't think the account is blasphemy, because it's pretty obvious to me that I'm not actually impersonating Jesus. I do get messages from people telling me I'm blasphemous and going to Hell, and that they're going to find out who I am and kill me,” he said.
“But I want people to know that I'm just trying to joke around and have fun. This isn't Banksy-level performance art. I'm not making big statements about anything (except how easy it now is to get verified on Twitter).”