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Soon after Elon Musk took over Twitter, the site began banning high-profile users with millions of followers who were making fun of the billionaire for his $44 billion forced purchase of the platform—a move that’s caused him to flail chaotically to find ways to make money, like a widely criticized $8 paid-verification scheme.
The Twitter account for h3h3Productions—a YouTube channel and podcast with 2.3 million followers on Twitter—was banned on Monday morning after changing its display name to "Elon Musk" and switching to an outdated Musk avatar. It also changed its bio to clearly say it was a parody account and even changed its banner to an image that says "parody account." "Even though Jeffery Epstein committed horrible crimes, I do still miss him on nights like this for his warmth and comradery. Rest In Peace old friend," the h3h3Productions account tweeted while parodying Musk, gaining nearly 2,000 retweets and over 12,000 likes. It was banned afterwards. Musk has framed his takeover of Twitter, which he attempted to wriggle out of but was forced to follow through on by the threat of legal action, as being part of a defense of free speech. Although Musk has claimed nothing has changed with regards to content moderation, it seems that by definition, it has. Musk reportedly axed Twitter's content curation team amid widespread layoffs that affected half of the company and drastically reduced the number of people who have access to moderation tools while giving personal input on the rules.
"Going forward, any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying 'parody' will be permanently suspended," Musk tweeted on Sunday. "Previously, we issued a warning before suspension, but now that we are rolling out widespread verification, there will be no warning," he added in a follow-up tweet. Specifying it was a parody account in its bio and header image was apparently not enough to save h3h3Productions' account from a ban, however. Other high-profile Twitter users were banned for parodying Musk over the weekend as well. Cartoonist Jeph Jacques (82,600 followers) changed his display name to "Elon Musk" and his avatar to an outdated photo of Musk from when he still had a receding hairline and began tweeting things like, "Grimes NEVER said I had a 'weird dick' and 'smelled like nachos' and if you repost this you will be arrested," which was retweeted nearly 20,000 times. Jacques' account was banned. Comedian Kathy Griffin (2 million followers) also changed her display name to "Elon Musk" and was banned after encouraging her followers to vote Democrat—Musk has said that he voted Republican recently.Some accounts were banned over the weekend for alleged impersonation that had an apparent connection to Musk. As spotted by NBC reporter Ben Collins, right-wing media personality Andy Ngo directly brought another reporter’s account to Elon's attention for impersonating him, and that account was banned. Another account impersonating Keanu Reeves in order to poke fun at Musk and his Twitter policies was also banned. Impersonation and parody for the purposes of satire and comedy is nothing new on Twitter and neither is users facing the consequences. What is new, however, is that they are facing instant, permanent bans and that Twitter coincidentally seems to have a focus on people making fun of the new boss specifically.