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Elon Musk and X

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A tech watchdog group is placing high scrutiny on X, formerly Twitter, alleging that it’s letting terror groups pay for verified accounts.

A report from the Tech Transparency Project (TTP) on Wednesday (Feb. 14), claimed that it discovered that 28 premium subscription accounts on X, formerly Twitter, under owner Elon Musk’s verification plan were given to groups that are currently under sanction by the United States including designated terror groups such as the Hezbollah organization. The subscriptions, identified by a blue check for verification, cost $8 a month and offer more promotion by the platform’s algorithm. Before Musk acquired the platform, accounts with a blue check were primarily for celebrities, companies and other notable figures.

The report detailed all of the groups and individuals involved beginning with Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah whose account has over 93,000 followers. It was listed as “ID verified,” which meant that X received government certification from Nasrallah. Also included was an account belonging to Ansarallah, the Yemeni militia group more commonly known as the Houthis. An account belonging to Iran’s Press TV state-run news outlet and one belonging to Russia’s Tinkoff Bank was found to have gold checks, which denote verified organizations. The cost for those subscriptions is $1,000 a month.

“We were surprised to find that X was providing premium services to a wide range of groups the U.S. has sanctioned for terrorism and other activities that harm its national security,” said Katie Paul, the director of the Tech Transparency Project to a reporter. “It’s yet another sign that X has lost control of its platform.” In their report, the TTP stated that 10 of the 28 accounts were paying to ensure that they kept “legacy” checkmarks that they had earlier. There is uncertainty as to how these groups and individuals avoided the rules to pay for their accounts according to X’s guidelines. Musk did let go of 80% of the staff at X since acquiring the platform in October 2022.

X released a statement later on that day refuting the claims from the TTP report. Several of the accounts listed in the Tech Transparency Report are not directly named on sanction lists, while some others may have visible account check marks without receiving any services that would be subject to sanctions,” the statement read. Several of the mentioned accounts did have their check marks removed before the statement was posted.