A shocking new inside report claims that Elon Musk demanded his engineers fix Twitter's algorithm in his favor or risk losing their jobs after a Super Bowl tweet by Joe Biden got more likes than his own.
Platformer, a reliable outlet with proven inside knowledge of Twitter's dealings, reports that Musk's cousin James Musk pinged engineers with an urgent message at 2:36 am on Monday.
"When bleary-eyed engineers began to log on to their laptops, the nature of the emergency became clear: Elon Musk’s tweet about the Super Bowl got less engagement than President Joe Biden’s," the report reveals.
Biden's tweet generated almost 29 million impressions, over 20 million more than Musk's own tweet, which he deleted.
"In the wake of those losses — the Eagles to the Kansas City Chiefs, and Musk to the president of the United States — Twitter’s CEO flew his private jet back to the Bay Area on Sunday night to demand answers from his team," according to Platformer.
Later that day, all of Twitter was bombarded with tweets by Elon Musk in the For You section of the timeline, turns out this was on purpose. Platformer says that " after Musk threatened to fire his remaining engineers, they built a system designed to ensure that Musk — and Musk alone — benefits from previously unheard-of promotion of his tweets to the entire user base."
Engineers, speaking with Musk in person, posited that his engagement may be down because he has been blocked and muted by so many people since taking over the company, however, "there were also legitimate technical reasons", with Musk's tweets online showing up "about half the time that some engineers thought they should, according to some internal estimates."
New code deployed to Twitter apparently now "automatically greenlights" all of Musk's tweets, bypassing its content filters and artificially boosting his tweets "by a factor of 1,000 – a constant score that ensured his tweets rank higher than anyone else’s in the feed."
While Musk has hinted that the changes might be tweaked, and has even joked, posting memes about how much everyone is seeing his content, the upshot is that Twitter's For You timeline, even now, remains largely unusable.
Elon Elon Elon Elon Elon Elon pic.twitter.com/faVx4ZMhNaFebruary 15, 2023
One employee told Platformer that Musk "bought the company, made a point of showcasing what he believed was broken and manipulated under previous management" but has since turned around and now "manipulates the platform to force engagement on all users to hear only his voice."
"Once again, Elon Musk's fragile ego is getting the better of him, and he wants to maintain his role as the main character of Twitter and play God with the algorithm," social media expert Matt Navarra told iMore on Wednesday. Navarra says these shenanigans aren't good for either Twitter or its users but aren't all that surprising. He described the reported move from Musk as "hugely self-serving" and told us it wouldn't benefit anyone except himself. Navarra doesn't think that this will drive users away from Twitter, however, but rather could see more users try to block and filter out his content, ironically exacerbating the problem he's trying to solve. He also believes that this could reduce goodwill towards Twitter as a platform from stakeholders such as advertisers. "I don't think it's going to drive millions of users away instantly," he said, "but I think it's going to have a network effect on people's views of the platform."
Master your iPhone in minutes
iMore offers spot-on advice and guidance from our team of experts, with decades of Apple device experience to lean on. Learn more with iMore!
Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.
Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9