Did Elon Musk hack Twitter's algorithm to become the most followed user?
Australian researcher Dr. Timothy Graham published findings of a study on Elon Musk's tweets on Twitter recently. Graham used official Twitter APIs to find out if media claims of Musk asking employees to boost his own tweets would back or refute the claims.
The claims, reported by the Platformer initially, suggests that it all began with the Super Bowl. More precisely, with tweets by Elon Musk, Twitter CEO, and Joe Biden, President of the United States.
Biden's tweet received almost 29 million impressions on Twitter. Twitter began to display impressions recently for all tweets on the site. Musk's tweet, which contained a similar support message for the Philadelphia Eagles, generated only 9.1 million impressions. This, according to the claim, upset Musk this much that he deleted his tweet.
The next day, according to the report, engineers were tasked to game Twitter's algorithm to favor Musk's tweets on the platform. With the new system in place, Musk tweet's could be promoted to almost the entirety of Musk's followers on Twitter.
Dr Timothy Graham, a senior lecturer in digital media at the Queensland University of Technology, analyzed data provided through Twitter API's to find out if the claim had substance.
Dr. Graham concluded that "allegations that @elonmusk is forcing his engineers to boost his tweets are fully supported by the data". The analysis, which shows tweet impressions per hour over the past seven day period, shows that "timelines match up perfectly with the reports", according to the researcher.
Impressions increased significantly on the night that Musk allegedly asked Twitter engineers to game the system. The chart shows a massive increase in impressions since that night, according to Dr. Graham.
A chart of Musk's tweet impressions per day since January 2023 show an even clear picture of what happened on Twitter a few days ago.
Impressions would occasionally break the 300 million impression mark, which likely depended on Musk's tweeting activity on the site. Impressions broke the 600 million mark after the alleged instructions to artificially improve impressions on the site.
The Guardian made the math and reports that Musk's impressions are up 737% and that daily impressions have "close to tripled".
Twitter announced recently that free access to its APIs will no longer be provided in the near future. Anyone who wants to access the API is charged a minimum of US$100 a month for that in the future.
To come back to the title question. Did Elon Musk ask Twitter engineers to game the algorithm in his favor? Evidence, provided by Twitter's own API, suggests that something did change in the past couple of days that pushed impressions very significantly.
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