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X let terrorist groups pay for verification, report says

X has allowed dozens of sanctioned individuals and groups to pay for its premium service, according to a from the Tech Transparency Project (TTP). The report raises questions about whether X is running afoul of US sanctions.

The report found 28 verified accounts belonging to people and groups the US government considers to be a national security threat. The group includes two leaders of Hezbollah, accounts associated with Houthis in Yemen and state-run media accounts from Iran and Russia. Of those, 18 of the accounts were verified after X began charging for verification last spring.

“The fact that X requires users to pay a monthly or annual fee for premium service suggests that X is engaging in financial transactions with these accounts, a potential violation of U.S. sanctions,” the report says. As the TTP points out, X’s state that sanctioned individuals are prohibited from paying for premium services. Some of the accounts identified by the TTP also had ads in their replies, the group, “raising the possibility that they could be profiting from X’s revenue-sharing program.”

Changing up Twitter’s verification policy was one of the most significant changes implemented by Elon Musk after he took over the company. Under the new rules, anyone can pay for a blue checkmark if they subscribe to X Premium. X doesn’t require users to submit identification, and the company has at times to shut down impersonators.

X also offers gold checkmarks to advertisers as part of its “verified organizations” tier, which starts at $200 a month. The TTP report found that accounts belonging to Iran’s Press TV and Russia’s Tinkoff Bank — both sanctioned entities — had gold checks. X has also gold checks to at least 10,000 companies. As the report points out, even giving away the gold badge to sanctioned groups could violate US government policies.

X didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but it appears that the company has removed verification from some of the accounts named in the TTP’s report. “X, formerly known as Twitter, has removed the blue check and suspended the paid subscriptions of several Iranian outlets,” Press TV tweeted from its account, which still has a gold check. The Hezbollah leaders’ accounts are also no longer verified.

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