By Emma Roth, a news writer who covers the streaming wars, consumer tech, crypto, social media, and much more. Previously, she was a writer and editor at MUO.
Although Elon Musk has previously stated that Twitter should treat “everyone equally,” Platformer has found that the network maintains a list of users whose visibility it has secretly been boosting. The eclectic group includes a mix of high-profile figures like LeBron James and President Joe Biden, internet standbys like YouTuber MrBeast and viral Twitter account Dril, and political commentators like Matthew Yglesias and Ben Shapiro.
Some of the other interesting “VIP” users Platformer mentions include the conservative Twitter account @catturd2, Twitter investor Marc Andreessen, comedian Jaboukie Young-White, the Tesla-focused account @teslaownerssv, menswear writer Derek Guy, and a handful of other journalists.
According to Platformer, the list contains a total of about 35 different people who get special treatment alongside Musk and was initially created to help keep track of the way modifications to Twitter’s algorithm affect the visibility of the site’s most popular users. However, that all changed when Musk noticed his engagement dropping in December (something he even fired an engineer over).
To help assuage Musk’s concerns, Platformer reports that Twitter’s engineers created a way to “tweak” the site’s ranking system when they noticed a high-profile user’s engagement dropping, ensuring “that tweets from those accounts were always shown.” That’s part of the reason why users saw Musk all over their timelines in February, as it essentially exempts these accounts from Twitter’s algorithm (although Platformer says Musk’s boost was different from what all the other users receive).
“Twitter engineers say the chief executive repeatedly flags the complaints of high profile users over those of average ones, effectively forcing them to act as a highly paid customer support team for Musk and his most favored users,” Platformer states. That doesn’t mean everyone on the list is someone Musk always agrees with, however, as Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also made the list despite them butting heads in the past.
This whole ranking system has some employees wondering why Musk plans to open source the code at all, Platformer reports, as they believe he’s only “going to choose a very specific part” of it to share. In addition to maintaining a list of VIP users, Twitter continues to prioritize verified accounts. The platform already gives verified users priority in tweet replies, and Musk announced on Monday that Twitter’s For You page will only recommend verified accounts starting in April.
Platformer’s findings come just days after The New York Times found that Twitter’s source code had been leaked on GitHub. Twitter believes the culprit is a former employee.
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