An account parodying Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) disappeared from Twitter on Friday, along with the account of its creator, a right-wing political pundit.
It wasn’t immediately clear what happened to the accounts, but Ocasio-Cortez had warned her followers to beware of the parody page, @AOCPress, after Twitter owner Elon Musk interacted with it, earning it hundreds of thousands of followers. The account had sported a “Twitter Blue” check mark that, prior to Musk monetizing the badge, had marked verified accounts of notable public figures.
Twitter did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment. Lauren Hitt, a spokesperson for Ocasio-Cortez, said the congresswoman’s office hadn’t heard from Twitter either.
@AOCPress had been suspended by Twitter’s previous management before Musk took over the company last year and allowed the account, as well as its creator, back on the site.
On Monday, Musk tweeted a fire emoji in response to @AOCpress after the account, pretending to be Ocasio-Cortez, wrote, “This might be the wine talking, but I’ve got a crush on @elonmusk.”
Ocasio-Cortez subsequently warned her Twitter followers about “a fake account on here impersonating me and going viral,” adding that Musk “has engaged it, boosting visibility.”
“I am assessing with my team how to move forward. In the meantime, be careful of what you see,” she said.
“Really wondering about where the line is to leave the other place,” she wrote on Bluesky, a Twitter competitor. “There is a line where the harm of unchecked disinfo exceeds the benefits of direct, authentic communication. It’s really sad.”
Ocasio-Cortez added that she was “concerned about next year’s election” after Musk complied with a censorship demand from the Turkish government, and after Donald Trump, on his own Truth Social platform, posted a parody video targeting his 2024 GOP primary opponent Ron DeSantis.
“All of it is precedent-setting and testing waters ahead of ’24. It will get worse,” she said.
The right-wing internet personality known as Catturd said on his podcast Friday that he had written tweets published by @AOCPress in the past. Catturd, who said he planned to revive the account on his own, claimed that the account’s main operator had shut it down because he had received death threats. (HuffPost was not able to verify that that occurred.)
Despite @AOCpress labeling itself “parody” in line with Twitter’s requirements, plenty of people have been fooled by the account.
When it tweeted, “Printing money is the only way out of inflation,” scores of Twitter users responded as though the author were the New York representative.
@AOCpress’s full display name — “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Press Release (parody)” — has raised questions about Twitter’s policies. The platform cuts off the end of the long name on many users’ timelines, meaning that the “(parody)” disclaimer isn’t visible unless they click on the account’s profile. This also means that screenshots of the account’s tweets can appear authentic.
But the man who started @AOCpress, a Trump-supporting political pundit named Michael Morrison, defended the account in direct messages with HuffPost. The words “Press Release” were included in the long display name, he said, because the account used to put out mock press statements purporting to be “official” from Ocasio-Cortez’s office.
Morrison said he no longer operated the account but refused to name the person who purportedly took his place. Those behind @AOCpress did not immediately reply after Morrison offered to put HuffPost in touch with the account’s team.
“If I was running it I would gladly take credit I think the account is hilarious,” said Morrison, who previously wrote for outlets created by right-wing grifter Jacob Wohl. Morrison also has ties to other prominent far-right figures such as Raheem Kassam, Jack Posobiec and Laura Loomer, and he was invited to the Trump White House’s 2019 “Social Media Summit.”
Both Morrison and @AOCpress were previously suspended by Twitter for alleged rule violations in 2019, prompting criticism from many right-wing influencers, including Donald Trump Jr.
At the time, Twitter explained its decision by saying that users cannot use “misleading account information in order to engage in spamming, abusive, or disruptive behavior including attempts to manipulate the conversations” on the platform. It also said that users must not “post duplicative or substantially similar content, replies, or mentions over multiple accounts or multiple duplicate updates on one account, or create duplicate or substantially similar accounts.”
The Daily Dot reported in 2019, citing an unnamed person familiar with the matter, that Twitter believed those behind the accounts in question were “working together to push the same information in a coordinated manner” — a violation of the site’s spam policy.
Morrison denied coordinating @AOCpress with other accounts and didn’t answer further questions from HuffPost. He could not be reached for comment Friday on the removal of his account.
A few months prior to the 2019 Twitter suspensions, Donald Trump associate Boris Epshteyn was among those who were fooled by @AOCpress. Epshteyn responded in earnest after the account condemned the Trump administration for “pulling out of the IMDb treaty with Russia” — using the name of the popular movie information site in place of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
Epshteyn then tried to play it off. “Most things @AOC says or puts out ... sound like a parody,” he wrote at the time.