According to a new report, Elon Musk had Twitter’s algorithm altered to ensure his personal tweets would reach more users’ homepages, after a tweet about the Super Bowl – posted by current US President Joe Biden – outperformed his own.
As per The Verge, Biden tweeted on February 12 that he’d be rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles in this year’s big game, racking up close to 30million impressions. Musk also posted in support of the Eagles (who ultimately lost to the Kansas City Chiefs), but his tweet only earned around 9million views. Musk eventually deleted his tweet, reportedly as a result of its low engagement.
It’s reported that Twitter’s engineers later received an “urgent message” from James Musk (a cousin of the platform’s recently appointed billionaire CEO) which alerted them that his team would be “debugging an issue with engagement across the platform”.
He made a call of arms to the company’s workforce: “Any people who can make dashboards and write software please can you help solve this problem. This is high urgency. If you are willing to help out please thumbs up this post.”
The Verge reports that some Twitter users’ dashboards were subsequently flooded with Elon Musk’s tweets, courtesy of a system implemented specifically to ensure that his posts are algorithmically prioritised. This process is reportedly something Musk had his team work on for some time: last week, it was reported that he fired one of Twitter’s two principal engineers over his decline in public engagement.
The newly implemented system was apparently made a top priority for Twitter’s engineering team, 80 people from which were assigned to work on it. According to at least one unnamed engineer at Twitter, the reason for Musk’s dwindling popularity could be because an overwhelming amount of users have either blocked or reported the figure (who has long been controversial for his particular brand of humour and political viewpoints).
Reach on Musk’s tweets, it’s reported, has now been amplified by a factor of 1,000, bypassing all other algorithmic measures Twitter has to filter content for users’ homepages. This “power user multiplier”, as it’s reportedly known internally, is only enabled to affect the distribution of posts made by Musk.
After receiving backlash from users – which he initially poked fun at – Musk reportedly had the algorithm altered to lower the factor by which his tweets are amplified.
In an anonymous statement given to The Verge, a current employee of Twitter said: “He bought the company, made a point of showcasing what he believed was broken and manipulated under previous management, then turns around and manipulates the platform to force engagement on all users to hear only his voice. I think we’re past the point of believing that he actually wants what’s best for everyone here.”