By David Z. Morris
July 28, 2018

Twitter this week implemented a very specific new policy – the site now automatically locks the account of any user who changes their display name to “Elon Musk.” According to The Verge, the move was intended to combat spam campaigns, particularly cryptocurrency scams, which for nearly a year have been popping up under tweets by prominent tech figures like the SpaceX and Tesla CEO.

Importantly, though, any user who verifies their account after the name change can continue using “Elon Musk” as their display name. The combination of policies seems to have fostered a wave of creativity by Musk impersonators – mostly of a very specific type.

“French Elon Musque” has racked up an impressive 38,000 Twitter followers in just 22 hours since its first Tweet. Aside from the accent, its humor hinges on a spreading reassessment of Musk that sees him not as a uniquely inspirational visionary, but just another aloof tech bro.

The account has already pioneered the Musk Multiverse Crossover, exchanging jabs with Irish Elon Musk (whose creator has already abandoned the character).

Other Musks are popping up quickly. Some are replicating the growing “Ethnic Elon Musk” meme, while others appear simply to be testing Twitter’s new policy.

Many of the new Musk impersonators are following in the footsteps of the now-defunct Italian Elon Musk, a perfecto send-up, primarily, of Musk’s resistance to unions. The persona was created by Alex Arbuckle, a writer/comedian who apparently got his blue ‘Verified’ check mark removed for his efforts, and has since reverted to his own identity.

There’s also, of course, the grandaddy of Musk parody accounts, Bored Elon Musk, which has a slightly more deadpan take on the billionaire.

The spread of Musk parodies in recent weeks has been partly motivated by Musk’s own increasingly agitated Twitter posts, which have included lobbing unfounded and possibly libelous accusations at one of the divers who helped rescue a Thai boys’ soccer team this month. Musk recently said he plans to tone down his Twitter presence, so the parody account creators may have something of a void to fill.

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To be clear, there’s no indication that Musk himself played any role in actions against accounts satirizing him on Twitter. However, there have been recent allegations that he personally threatened to sue a blogger who had wrote critically about Tesla for Seeking Alpha. Tesla has been targeted by a critical mass of short-sellers who believe the company will fail, and whom Musk has accused of promoting negative and even false stories about the company.

Some have questioned whether Twitter’s new Musk-specific policy is a meaningful effort to solve problems on the platform, considering other ongoing challenges.

If stopping cryptocurrency scams is the true motive, Twitter’s policy does seem strangely scattershot – as of this writing, there’s still no barrier to changing an account name to “Vitalik Buterin,” the creator of Ethereum and perpetual scam target. Fortune has reached out to Twitter for clarity on this apparent inconsistency.

 

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