This news “blue” folks away on Thursday so to speak. That day, the Twitter account @EliLillyandCo posted, “We are excited to announce insulin is free now.” At the time, that account had one of those blue check marks next to its name suggesting that Twitter had already verified its authenticity as the real deal, the real Eli Lilly and Company. Free insulin sounds great to the seven million diabetes patients in America who are regularly prescribed insulin. After all, free is a pretty darn good price for a medication that has shot up in price over the past decade up to over $1000 per month for some who don’t have health insurance.
Well, the whole thing didn’t quite check out eventually. In fact, @EliLillyandCo is a fake Eli Lilly Twitter account. The real Eli Lilly and Company Twitter account, @LillyPad, tried to clear the air later that day because the pharmaceutical company wasn’t about to give away its product for free:
So how then did @EliLillyandCo get the blue check if it wasn’t the real deal? Well, since billionaire Elon Musk closed the $44 billion deal to acquire Twitter on October 28, there’s been some ch-ch-changes. Musk has fired most of the former leadership. He’s also laid off like half the Twitter work force because he could. Twitter Blue was launched on November 5th, and it changed their blue checkmark policy. You had to show proof of your legitimacy to receive a blue checkmark next to you name before. You or any other bot could now get a check with the Twitter blue service, provided you paid $8 per month. You could claim you are a Professor of Hot Dogs or PhD by using a blue tweet check to back up your claim. However, $8 per month would be required. If someone wants to claim they’re you and say they’re blue, the same applies. This is how you sell legitimacy.
Yeah, file that Musk-y decision under the didn’t quite think it through or didn’t think it blue category. A number of fake Twitter accounts obtained blue check marks soon after Twitter Blue. They used their blue to create havoc. One fake Lockheed Martin account claimed the company had stopped weapons sales in some countries. A second fake LeBron Jam account claimed the NBA star requested a trade deal from the Los Angeles Lakers. A Twitter account verified as former President George W. Bush, with handle @GeorgeWBushs, tweeted “I miss killing Iraqis”, along with a sadface emoticon. O.J. (or a fake O.J.) was next. Simpson’s @ThaReal0J32 account tweeted what seemed to be a confession. It was then deleted. This fake account used a “Tha” rather the “the” used by the real O.J. Simpson account,@TheReal0J32, which, by the way, has yet to get a Twitter blue check mark. Also, it was a fake O.J. Simpson’s account was given a blue checkmark long before the true one.
The handle @EliLillyandCo wasn’t the only account impersonating Eli Lilly and Company by securing that previously coveted blue check mark from Twitter. There was another “padded” account, namely @LillyPadCo, which managed to tweet, “Humalog is now $400. This is possible at any time and you have no control over it. Suck it,” according to Pete Syme writing for the Insider. The giveaway was that it’s not that common for pharmaceutical companies to say, “suck it,” unless they are talking about cough drops. What would have been the outcome if @EliLillyandCo or @LillyPadCo had tweeted out more disinformation that looked more correct on blue?
Incidentally, the day after the fake Eli Lilly accounts had issued their fake insulin tweets, Eli Lilly’s stock share price tumbled by 4.37% or $16.08 down to $352.30 as blue check-marked creative and political activist Rafael Shimunov pointed out:
And podcaster Robert Evans, who didn’t have a blue check mark and thus either isn’t really Robert Evans or didn’t want to pay $8, tweeted:
Did fake Twitter accounts cause the share price drop? It’s hard to know. Lot’s o’ things can affect a company’s stock price. Reddit, and other forums made it clear that GameStop shares rose after people noticed that hedge funds had placed multi-billion dollar short positions against them. Online investors then began investing in the company to push GameStop shares from around $17 up to over $500 to presumably “stock block” the hedge funds shorting the stock. Regardless, @LillyPad having to offer an “apology” for the actions of a fake account suggested that such impersonation left Eli Lilly and Company rather blue, meaning not that happy.
You could say that Musk “blue” it by putting Twitter’s blue verification check mark up for sale. Charging $8 a month for a blue check mark probably is not going make much of dent into Twitter’s debt. It was also a thank you for everyone who proved that their Twitter accounts were legally owned over time. The door was open to more disinformation and misinformation via Twitter. This could also prevent billionaires earning more.
Now, Musk wouldn’t want to hurt billionaires would he?
It would be O.J. Simpson or Eli Lilly if you called. Simpson and had called Twitter this past week to inquire about the Twitter-verified fake accounts, it’s not clear who you may have gotten on the line. That’s because Musk apparently gutted Twitter’s communications department, as author Molly Knight tweeted:
It’s not a good idea to not have a comms team after making major changes in your account verification system. Maybe a poop emoticon. It certainly didn’t deserve an eggplant emoji. That’s a bit like eating a prune-flax seed-bean casserole surprise with coffee without checking to make sure a bathroom is available and stocked with toilet paper.
So, no, insulin hasn’t gone the way of napkins at restaurants. Eli Lilly and Company will not give the medication away for free. According to Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, the contrary is true. Sanders stated that insulin has been more expensive than ever since 1996.
It may be amazing what $8 can buy you on Twitter, but it probably won’t buy you much insulin.