A parody account mocking New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was deactivated on Friday after it had gained tens of thousands of new followers and even attached the attention of Elon Musk.
Twitter has not responded to media requests for comment.
However, the account had been in the spotlight in recent days after Ocasio-Cortez warned her followers to beware of the parody account (@AOCpress).
The New York Democrat had been among those who “lost” their blue check verified status on Twitter earlier this year after the social media service moved to its Twitter Blue subscription model. However, the “official” account for Ocasio-Cortez now is verified with a gray check as it is government-related.
The parody account had been previously banned, but soon after being reinstated Musk responded to a tweet it sent that claimed the congresswoman had a crush on him.
Earlier this week, Rep. (D-N.Y.) called out the parody account, tweeting, “FYI there’s a fake account on here impersonating me and going viral. The Twitter CEO has engaged it, boosting visibility. It is releasing false policy statements and gaining spread. I am assessing with my team how to move forward. In the meantime, be careful of what you see.”
Fake But “Verified” AOC Account
The fact that the fake AOC account had been “verified” – even as it was noted to be a parody – likely confused some users on the social media service. The New York lawmaker probably won’t be the last high-profile user who will have to deal with a fake account spreading misinformation via Twitter or other platforms.
“Expect to see a lot more of these types of attacks, but not necessarily because of any new inherent technological weakness, but because of this cyber terrain they have now enjoyed some success and infamy,” warned John Hale, professor at the Tulsa University Online Master of Science in Cyber Security program.
“These kinds of attacks prey on our neurons, not our computer’s silicon or software,” Hale continued. “They are technology-resilient, exploiting the weakest link in the chain – the human, which at any moment can be inattentive to or ignorant of prevalent threats.”
A better interface design for social media platforms and vetting of accounts could provide some relief, but these kinds of attacks have already proven fairly adaptable to new techno-environments.
“The blame lies squarely with Elon Musk, whose tinkering with Twitter has been nothing but disastrous. Musk is great at building cars and rockets but is way out of his lane with social media,” explained James Bailey, professor of leadership at the George Washington University School of Business.
New Technologies Will Mean Bigger Problems
This week, it may have been just tweets from a fake account – but technology, including adaptive AI (artificial intelligence) and DeepFakes – will only make the program much worse.
“That same technology that allows you into your bank account if you click a box that says ‘I am not a robot,’ is little more than today’s version of ‘hacking.’ AI programs like ChatGPT are so transparently recognized they might as well be scams like a prince asking for funding,” suggested Bailey. “Right now, for folks like AOC or other public figures, AI is nothing but a nuisance.”
Bailey added that as always, the consumer as well as the social media users simply needs to be vigilant.
“If George Will calls someone an undisciplined, immoral, craven, abusive moron on his Twitter account, we can be pretty sure he didn’t say it,” noted Bailey.
Yet, technology will increasingly make it harder to tell what is real and what isn’t, especially as the blue check has proven this week to be an essentially meaningless form of verification.