Platformer has interviewed Twitter employees to figure out why people’s For You feeds turned into The Elon Musk show, and they said the company’s engineers truly did build a system that benefited their CEO alone. According to the publication, Elon’s cousin and Twitter employee James Musk sent an urgent message on the company’s Slack on Monday morning. “We are debugging an issue with engagement across the platform,” he wrote, calling the situation “high urgency” and asking everyone who can write code to help. The situation? President Biden’s tweet about rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles got more engagement than Musk’s.
Apparently, the president’s tweet generated almost 29 million impressions, whereas Musk’s generated 9.1 million only before he deleted it. Musk’s issue with his tweets not getting as much engagement as he would like started before the Super Bowl, however. Platformer previously reported that he fired one of Twitter’s two remaining principal engineers because he suggested that Musk’s tweets aren’t generating as many impressions anymore because people are no longer that interested in what he’s saying.
Around 80 Twitter employees were reportedly tasked to investigate the possible reasons for Musk’s waning engagement numbers, and they did consider the possibility that a lot of people had blocked and muted him in recent months. They also looked into legitimate potential technical issues, though, because tweets from users whose posts typically perform well should’ve been automatically promoted by the website’s system.
The fix they came up with, Platformer says, is to deploy code that would artificially boost Musk’s tweets by a factor of 1,000, ensuring that they rank higher than everyone else’s in people’s feeds. As a result, over 90 percent of Musk’s 128.9 million followers saw his tweets, and even those who don’t follow the Twitter owner kept seeing his posts on their timeline.
While Musk didn’t speak at length about the issue, he did acknowledge the change in his own way, specifically by posting the “forced to drink milk” meme. He also asked people to stay tuned while Twitter made adjustments to the “algorithm” (his quote, not ours) after users started complaining of seeing all Elon all the time. “Adjustments” reportedly didn’t mean removing his advantage completely, though: according to Platformer, Elon’s tweets are still artificially boosted, but by a factor less than 1,000. Bottom line, users will still see his tweets a lot, unless they choose to move over to the Following tab instead.