Mark Ruffalo is urging Elon Musk to pivot his approach to running Twitter following a week of upheaval at the social media company that has seen layoffs, advertisers pausing ad spending and fear over a new subscription plan that reimagines the platform’s verification tool.
In a series of tweets on Saturday and another on Sunday, the I Know This Much Is True actor directly engaged Musk following an accusation by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that the platform had “bricked” her profile. She tweeted that it followed her criticizing Musk’s plans to open the site’s Twitter verification tool — the “blue check” badge — to anyone willing to pay $8 a month for a Twitter Blue subscription.
“Elon. Please — for the love of decency — get off Twitter, hand the keys over to someone who does this as an actual job, and get on with running Tesla and SpaceX,” Ruffalo said in a quote tweet of Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s allegation on Saturday. “You are destroying your credibility. It’s just not a good look.”
Discussions about how the platform would handle free speech issues — more specifically the moderation of hate speech and criticism of Twitter’s new owner — have increased in the week since he officially took over the site. Since then, Musk has fired key leaders and laid off thousands of employees around the world just days ahead of the 2022 midterms elections. That includes members of the human rights, accessibility, AI ethics, communications and curation teams, who tweeted about their layoffs on Friday, TechCrunch reported.
In response to Ruffalo’s tweet, Musk responded that “not everything AOC says is 💯 accurate.” (The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to Twitter for comment.)
While Ruffalo replied “maybe so,” the actor went on to point out that the recent disruptions to the platform and modification of certain features, like verification, make that harder to discern. “That’s why having robust filters for dis/misinformation & credible verified users has been a popular feature for people & advertisers alike,” he said. “We need those safeguards to make sure it’s accurate information, or the app loses credibility, as do you. And people leave.”
With what’s known about Musk’s proposed Twitter Blue verification plan, anyone paying $8 a month would be able to purchase a verification badge without having to verify that their identity matches the one attached to their account. In 2009, Twitter was sued by Tony La Russa, a former MLB player and then-manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, over claims someone registered his name and began posting offensive comments.
Last week, Pacific Rim and The Gray Man actor Rob Kazinksy raised concerns over how someone might be able to impersonate the actor — as he says someone had previously — to interact with minors through the platform. (The actor, who wasn’t specific about which platform this was connected to, stated he didn’t have social media at the time and that one of those children who was allegedly contacted by someone impersonating him went missing.)
On Sunday, Musk also addressed the impersonation issue after several actors with verified accounts changed their profile name to his in an attempt to underscore how regular Twitter users could potentially be confused or manipulated by the platform’s upcoming verification expansion. That includes Hot in Cleveland and One Day at a Time’s Valerie Bertinelli, Roswell and The Night Shift star Brendan Fehr and comedian and actress Kathy Griffin, whose account is currently suspended.
“Going forward, any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying ‘parody’ will be permanently suspended,” Musk tweeted.
Musk noted in his tweet thread that previously, users received warnings for impersonation before their accounts were suspended. He now suggests that that policy is not only no longer in effect, but that any name change at all will be reviewed. “Previously, we issued a warning before suspension, but now that we are rolling out widespread verification, there will be no warning,” he said. “Any name change at all will cause temporary loss of verified checkmark.”
In Fehr’s response to the account locks early Sunday, he confirmed he had changed his name back before adding, “don’t worry, he’s still perfectly fine with anyone tweeting lies and irresponsible conspiracies so all’s good and makes sense.”
Users, former employees and advertisers have also raised concerns in the days leading up to the layoffs and since about the impact the company’s mass employee loss would have on the platform’s usability and safety. On Friday, Musk tweeted out that Twitter had experienced a “massive drop in revenue,” and asserted that the cause was “due to activist groups pressuring advertisers, even though nothing has changed with content moderation and we did everything we could to appease the activists.” (Advertising was 89 percent of Twitter’s revenue last year.)
On Nov. 1, Politico reported that IPG’s Mediabrands, one of the four largest advertising companies, was advising clients to suspend their Twitter ads. In response to a tweet on Nov. 4 suggesting that those companies be “named and shamed,” Musk tweeted, “A thermonuclear name & shame is exactly what will happen if this continues.”
On Sunday, Ruffalo replied to Musk, writing, “Those corps are protecting their brands & customers from the misinformation & bigotry that those you’ve laid off protected us from. You wiped out any way of protecting ourselves from fake accounts. It’s just smart business. Please don’t go “Thermal Nuclear” on us, Chief Tweet.”
Updated 4:23 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6: Added Musk’s tweet.