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Saturday April 13, 2024

Elon Musk's X faces US govt wrath for giving paid verified accounts to Hezbollah leaders

Experts criticised Musk's decision to charge for check marks arguing it would expose platform to impersonators

By Web Desk
February 15, 2024
This combination of images shows the logo of X, formerly Twitter, (left) and Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Hezbollah. — Unsplash, AFP/File
This combination of images shows the logo of X, formerly Twitter, (left) and Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Hezbollah. — Unsplash, AFP/File

A report from the Tech Transparency Project (TTP), a digital research nonprofit, reveals that resistance group Hezbollah leaders received paid verification badges and premium features on X, formerly Twitter, potentially violating sanctions imposed by the United States and the platform’s policies.

TTP found blue check marks, which can be purchased for $8 a month to allow longer posts and better promotion, on accounts linked to Hezbollah members, the BBC reported.

The badge, which was previously free, indicates that the social media platform had verified the identity behind the account.

Experts criticised Musk's decision to charge for check marks, arguing it would worsen disinformation issues and expose the platform to impersonators while accusing the platform of breaking US sanctions law.

The TTP reported an account run by the Houthis with over 23,000 followers had paid for a blue check mark. The Houthis are sanctioned in the US and UK.

"The US imposes sanctions on individuals, groups, and countries deemed to be a threat to national security. Elon Musk's X appears to be selling premium service to some of them", the TTP wrote in its report.

"A blue checkmark account that bears the name and profile image of Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Hezbollah, also indicates it is 'ID verified', a service that X offers to premium subscribers as a way to prevent impersonation. X requires users to submit a government-issued ID and a selfie to get verified in this way, though it is unclear if Nasrallah did so", it added.

However, X has removed some ticks after the report, claiming that its security was "robust".

Posting on X, the company’s team in charge of safety wrote that its subscription process was "adhering to legal obligations", and was independently screened by X's payment providers.

It also stated that the TTP reports listed accounts that are not directly listed on US sanctions lists.

The TTP responded that although some organizations were not named on the US sanctions list, they were owned by entities under US sanctions.

The tech billionaire has advocated for the platform to resemble a "town square" and promote free speech while removing illegal content. However, his takeover of X has led to controversial decisions, such as Kanye West's account's reinstatement in 2023 after an eight-month ban over offensive posts.