Furious that President Biden’s Super Bowl tweets got better engagement than his, Elon Musk reportedly forced Twitter engineers to rejigger the algorithm so more people would see his tweets.
If the end result of Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter is Musk losing his mind in some sort of Twilight Zone-style episode of self-induced madness, well, that would feel narratively correct, no? And that may be exactly what is happening. The latest bit of palace gossip from Twitter is a Tuesday report from Platformer that Musk forced Twitter engineers to change the algorithm because Musk was upset that not enough people were seeing his tweets.
The Platformer report is truly stranger than fiction. “At 2:36 on Monday morning, James Musk sent an urgent message to Twitter engineers,” the site reports. “‘We are debugging an issue with engagement across the platform,’ wrote Musk, a cousin of the Twitter CEO, tagging ‘@here’ in Slack to ensure that anyone online would see it. ‘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.’”
“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,” according to Platformer.
As your president, I’m not picking favorites.— President Biden (@POTUS) February 13, 2023
But as Jill Biden’s husband, fly Eagles, fly. https://t.co/YtgaEC83Qj
The Biden tweet is seen above, a completely bland and milquetoast politician sports tweet. It got 29 million impressions as of early Monday morning. Musk's own “Go @Eagles” tweet (which he deleted, I guess because the Eagles lost?) only got around nine million impressions, so the Chief Twit was on a warpath.
Some of this relates to tweets now showing total views in the engagement bar in addition to likes and retweets, and like Donald Trump, Musk wants to think he's king of all tweeting something must be broken if not enough people are seeing his musings.
According to KRON4, Musk “reportedly had his deputies tell the engineering team that if the engagement issue wasn’t ‘fixed’ they would all lose their jobs.” Platformer adds 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.”
my entire for “for you” tab is elon musk tweets and replies. i guess this is the product of him threatening to fire engineers if they didn’t boost his tweet engagement. pic.twitter.com/8WvxRvRAxG— Paris Marx (@parismarx) February 13, 2023
Users noticed (and complained!), which left Musk attempting to play it all off as a joke, as if he were someone who is actually funny.
Musk did acknowledge Tuesday to “Please stay tuned while we make adjustments to the uh .… ‘algorithm,’” which may or may not indicate he will walk back this bizarre algorithm change. And it’s another sign that the company could really use a more professional CEO, as even Musk’s own tweets seem to acknowledge that anyone would be an improvement.
The new CEO of Twitter is amazing pic.twitter.com/yBqWFUDIQH— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 15, 2023
Image: PARIS, FRANCE - APRIL 26: In this photo illustration, the Elon Musk’s Twitter account is displayed on the screen of an iPhone on April 26, 2022 in Paris, France. The U.S. multi-billionaire Elon Musk bought the social network Twitter on Monday April 25 for the sum of 44 billion dollars after two weeks of arm wrestling with the company's board of directors. (Photo illustration by Chesnot/Getty Images)