Elon Musk warns Twitter will release 1.5 billion unused handles

Elon Musk has a new wish for Twitter: that pseudonyms that have not been used for some time on the social network can be redistributed to active people who would like to have them.

Elon Musk announces new policy on Twitter. Soon, the social network will release the pseudonyms of 1.5 billion accounts in order to offer them again to Internet users. The American entrepreneur published a tweet to this effect on December 9, 2022, without however specifying when this change will occur.

“Twitter will soon begin releasing the names of 1.5 billion accounts. These are obvious account deletions, without tweets or connection for years,” develops the businessman in a second message. On the other hand, it is not specified what will be the criterion of the duration of inactivity to decide to release a nickname or to leave it to its first owner.

The release of pseudonyms is not a new policy on Twitter. It was mentioned years earlier, long before Elon Musk owned it. In 2019, the social network expressed its intention to redistribute the usernames of accounts that have been inactive for at least six months, based on various signals (not just the publication of tweets).

What does Twitter do in the case of deceased people?

At the time, however, this policy had highlighted a problem: what about the accounts of missing persons? For loved ones, the profiles of deceased individuals may serve as a place of contemplation and remembrance. The release of pseudonyms, especially if accompanied by the deletion of accounts, would be a great pain.

Alerted, the Twitter account dedicated to supporting had admitted that it was necessary to first settle the case of the profiles of the deceased before doing anything. “It was a mistake on our part. We will not remove any inactive accounts until we create a new way for people to commemorate accounts,” the platform wrote at the time.

This subject does not seem to have evolved since. Twitter does provide a contact form to report someone close to you who is dead or incapacitated, but it’s a procedure for deactivating an account. The social network’s help pages obviously don’t mention a tool to flip a profile into a frozen form — Facebook has that approach.

This particular point is not mentioned by Elon Musk or the dedicated support Twitter account. Internet users, however, took care to remind the Americans that a project to convert certain accounts into a place of meditation existed… and they would now like to know where it is three years later. Obviously, the site is at an impasse on this file.

One question remains: will the deletion or, at least, the release of pseudonyms pose problems in terms of identity theft and cybersquatting? If a brand, organization, or individual has reserved a username to maintain their online presence but has never used Twitter, they could be caught up in this wave of removal.

But is it a subject? Identity theft occurs regardless of whether or not a legitimate account is present. Instead of using an account @firstnamelastname which would already be reserved, the usurper can create @firstname-lastname or all sorts of variants, by adding an avatar and a biography. Whether the real account exists or not is irrelevant here.


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