Twitter’s recently re-launched premium service, which offers blue-check “verification” labels to users who pay $8 per month, was unavailable on Friday due to a deluge of fake accounts that the social media site had previously accepted.

It’s the most recent jarring alteration to the service, where ambiguity has set in since billionaire Elon Musk assumed leadership two weeks ago. Prior to that, the blue check was given to verified journalists, celebrities, corporations, government agencies, and other verified users of the platform in order to stop impersonation. As long as they have a phone, a credit card, and $8 per month, anyone can now obtain one.

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Insulin was advertised as free by a fake Twitter account established under the updated Twitter Blue system, impersonating pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly & Co., prompting the Indianapolis corporation to publish an apology. 

Additionally impersonated were the accounts of other politicians and members of the professional sports community, as well as Nintendo, Lockheed Martin, and Musk’s own businesses Tesla and SpaceX.

The creation of phony accounts might be the tipping point for advertisers that have suspended their Twitter advertising: Musk’s turbulent tenure at the helm of the platform, which resulted in the firing of half of its staff and several high-profile exits, has prompted concerns about its viability.

The impostors can cause big problems, even if they’re taken down quickly.

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They have created “overwhelming reputational risk for placing advertising investments on the platform,” said Lou Paskalis, longtime marketing, and media executive and former Bank of America head of global media. Adding that with the fake “verified” brand accounts, “a picture emerges of a platform in disarray that no media professional would risk their career by continuing to make advertising investments on, and no governance apparatus or senior executive would condone if they did.”

Adding to the confusion, Twitter now has two categories of “blue checks,” and they look identical. One includes the accounts verified before Musk took the helm. It notes that “This account is verified because it’s notable in government, news, entertainment, or another designated category.” The other notes that the account subscribes to Twitter Blue.

But as of midday Friday, Twitter Blue was not available for subscription.

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On Thursday, Musk tweeted that “too many corrupt legacy Blue ‘verification’ checkmarks exist, so no choice but to remove legacy Blue in coming months.”

An email sent to Twitter’s press address went unanswered. The company’s communications department was gutted by the layoffs and Twitter has not responded to queries from The Associated Press since October 27 when Musk took the helm.

Thursday night, Twitter also once again began adding gray “official” labels to some prominent accounts. It had rolled out the labels earlier this week, only to kill them a few hours later.

They returned Thursday night, at least for some accounts — including Twitter’s own, as well as big companies like Amazon, Nike, and Coca-Cola, before many vanished again.

Celebrities also did not appear to be getting the “official” label.

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Twitter is heavily dependent on ads and about 90% of its revenue comes from advertisers. But each change that Musk is rolling out — or rolling back — makes the site less appealing for big brands.

“It has become chaos,” said Richard Levick, CEO of public relations firm Levick. “Who buys into chaos?”

A bigger issue for Musk might be the risk to his reputation as a model tech executive since the rollout of different types of verifications and other changes have been botched, Levick added.

“It’s another example something not very well thought out, and that’s what happens when you rush,” Levick said. “Musk has been known as a trusted visionary and magician — he can’t lose that moniker and that’s what’s at risk right now,” Levick said.

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Twitter is a small part of the total ad spending for the biggest companies that advertise on the platform. Google, Amazon, and Meta account for about 75% of digital ads globally, with all other platforms combined making up the other 25%. Twitter accounts for about 0.9% of global digital ad spending, according to Insider Intelligence.

“For most marketers on budgets, Twitter has always been that thing that is potentially too big to totally ignore but not quite big enough to care about,” said Mark DiMassimo, the creative chief of the marketing agency DiGo.

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“None of this is a forever moral or ethical stand on the point of advertisers,” he added. “If Musk proves to be a civilizing force in the long run advertisers will come back — if Twitter is still there. It’s a ‘for now’ decision — why be there now?”