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A fake Eli Lilly account could cost Twitter millions


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A nine-word tweet was sent Thursday afternoon from an account using the name and logo of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Co., prompting a giant response: “We’re excited to announce that insulin is now free.”

The tweet’s blue “verified” icon, a symbol Twitter has used for years to signal the authenticity of an account and Twitter’s new billionaire owner Elon Musk declares “Power to the people!” It was suddenly opened to everyone, regardless of identity, on the condition that they pay $8.

But the tweet was fake — one of what has become a fast-growing bevy of impersonated businesses, political leaders, government agencies and celebrities. When Twitter deleted the tweet, more than six hours later, the account was inspired other fake Eli Lilly copies and viewed millions of times.

The fake caused panic inside the real Eli Lilly, according to two people familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Company officials tried to contact Twitter representatives and asked them to kill the viral hoax, fearing it could damage their brand’s reputation or make people make false claims about their drug. Twitter, whose workforce was cut in half, did not respond for hours.

The fallout from the $8 hoax offers a potentially costly lesson for Musk, who long viewed Twitter as a playground for nasty jokes and trolls, but now must find a way to operate as a business after taking over $44 billion.

By Friday morning, Eli Lilly executives had ordered a halt to all Twitter ad campaigns — a potentially serious blow, given that the $330 billion company controls the massive ad budget that Musk needs to avoid bankruptcy. They also suspended the Twitter publishing plan for all corporate accounts worldwide.

“At $8, they’re potentially losing millions of dollars in advertising revenue,” said Amy O’Connor, a former senior communications official at Eli Lilly who now works for the trade association. “What’s in it for the company to stay on Twitter?” It is not worth taking risks when the patient’s trust and health are at stake.

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Eli Lilly, which declined to answer questions about the episode or how much it spent on advertising on Twitter, is one of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical makers, known for the antidepressant drug Prozac and the diabetes treatments Trulicity and Humalog.

Maintains a strong Twitter presence. In addition to the main corporate account, @LillyPadmanages dedicated independent accounts diabetes care, European health policy, clinical trials, rheumatology and distribution of health information Spanish, italian and French language. The U.S. spends more than $100 million a year on TV ads and digital ad campaigns, according to marketing data firm MediaRadar.

When Twitter did not respond quickly to pleas about the fake account, Eli Lilly apologized to its 130,000 followers on its official account Thursday afternoon.deceptive” fake. Five hours later, when the fake account was still active, a Twitter ad sales representative in New York he was openly begging With Musk to remove the fake account.

Musk did not respond, but the account was suspended Thursday night. The next morning, Musk he tweeted He said the rollout of Twitter’s new $8 verification mode was “overall going well.”

Musk did not respond to requests for comment for this article. Twitter’s communications team also did not respond; Many of Musk’s employees have been laid off due to mass layoffs imposed by Musk on November 4.

In a brief statement Friday, Eli Lilly said it was “working to correct this situation.”

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Musk said the radical change to Twitter’s “verified” system, first introduced in 2009, would shake up the establishment journalists he regularly criticizes with changes to its “verified” system.oligopoly on information.”

Twitter doesn’t verify the identity of anyone who pays $8 for a check mark that looks identical to the current “verified” mark. Musk said that spammers and impersonators will be warned that their $8 won’t be refunded if their account is suspended.

Jenna Golden, who led Twitter’s political and advocacy ad sales team until 2017 and now runs D.C. consulting firm Golden Strategies, said the sudden change destroyed some of the trust that remained among advertisers on the platform.

Twitter has never been a “must buy” site for advertisers, he said. While a popular way to reach influential political figures and news junkies, it has never had the scale and performance of digital giants like Google and Facebook.

Now, with a piecemeal verification system, “it makes it really easy for advertisers to walk away saying, ‘You know, I don’t need to be here anymore,'” Golden said. “People are not only providing inaccurate information, they are also providing malicious information with the ability to appear legitimate. It’s just not a stable place for a brand to invest.”

Compounding the problem, Gold said, it’s Musk himself, who has pushed through high-profile changes at the company that have baffled paying customers, baffled industry observers and sent Twitter’s power users on the way out.

“People see the leader of this company as unstable and unpredictable, he makes very serious decisions and reverses them very quickly,” he said. “He claims he wants to build a successful business, then does everything he can to turn off advertisers, who are his main source of income. … I just don’t see a world where advertisers are going to be excited about coming back and willing to commit dollars to his experience.”

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On Thursday, as fake accounts proliferated on the site, Musk responded to the blatant sexism tweet Twitter users tweeted two crying smiley emojis from a fake President Biden shared “Some epically funny tweets.”

By Friday morning, Twitter had suspended its blue verification program, known as Twitter Blue, due to “impersonation issues” and began adding “official” tags to Eli Lilly and other large corporate accounts.

On Thursday, Musk he tweeted Twitter will begin adding a ‘parody’ tag to fake blue check accounts. He also defended Eli Lilly, tweet Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — who used fakes to draw attention to the high prices of insulin, a life-saving drug, said “the question of price is complicated.”

Some of the country’s most prominent business and political figures have managed to get rid of Twitter’s viral image in recent days: former presidents (Donald Trump, George W. Bush) and giant companies (a defense contractor). Lockheed MartinMusk’s car maker Tesla) were all retweeted extensively with fake but verified badges attached.

This change also caused some major advertisers to withdraw. Advertising firm Omnicom Media Group, which represents corporate giants such as Apple and McDonald’s, advised clients to stop all Twitter activity, saying in a note first reported by The Verge that “the risk to our clients’ brand safety has dramatically increased to the highest level.” would be unacceptable.”

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The $8 fake bill for Eli Lilly was a disastrous and high-profile surprise. The Indianapolis-based conglomerate employs more than 37,000 people in 18 countries and generates $28 billion in annual revenue.

Sanders and many others used the parody to focus on insulin costs, a common point of company criticism. When Eli Lilly’s stock price fell 4 percent on Friday — as other health care stocks fell — many Twitter users credited the fake account: “Tweet cost Eli Lilly billions,” it said. tweet With over 380,000 likes. “The most consequential $8 in modern human history,” he said else.

Some Twitter users labeled the accounts as modern satire, or were excited by the idea that Musk’s move could backfire by exposing Twitter to legal threats. Other bogus but authenticated Eli Lilly spoofs proliferated and gained their own wide audience before being discontinued: one he tweeted, “Humalog is now $400. We can do it whenever we want, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

To healthcare companies like Eli Lilly, the change offered not only a reputational threat, but also the risk that other frauds could threaten people’s well-being. Eli Lilly’s Twitter accounts regularly field medical questions and work to correct misinformation about side effects, health issues, and long-term care.

O’Connor said Twitter’s change has shaken not only Eli Lilly, but many other companies, now concerned about the risk of participating on a platform where account legitimacy is no longer guaranteed.

“It’s not just about Twitter, it’s about patient health,” O’Connor said. One public health group said, “If people falsify and share information that makes their diabetes worse? Where does it stop? It feels like it’s literally just the beginning and it’s only going to get worse.”





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