Billionaire Elon Musk said Twitter’s algorithm is manipulating people without their understanding and encouraged people to make changes to how they use the social media platform.
Twitter offers its users the option to sort others’ posts by chronology, “latest Tweets,” or via an algorithm developed by Twitter that makes recommendations, “Home Tweets.” Mr. Musk, who is set to acquire Twitter, urged people to “fix” their Twitter usage by selecting the chronological option.
“You are being manipulated by the algorithm in ways you don’t realize,” Mr. Musk said via Twitter on Saturday. “Easy to switch back & forth to see the difference.”
Twitter’s intent was not to directly manipulate people’s usage and behavior, according to former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.
“It was designed simply to save you time when you are away from [the] app for awhile,” Mr. Dorsey said in reply to Mr. Musk.
Mr. Musk later sought to clarify his criticism of Twitter’s algorithm to make clear he was not accusing the company of causing harm. According to a regulatory filing from last month detailing the agreement for his Twitter takeover, Mr. Musk’s tweets must not disparage the company or its representatives.
“I’m not suggesting malice in the algorithm, but rather that it’s trying to guess what you might want to read and, in doing so, inadvertently manipulate/amplify your viewpoints without you realizing this is happening,” Mr. Musk said on Twitter on Sunday morning.
He also said “potential bugs” may exist in Twitter’s computer code and thought making the code open source, or more publicly accessible, was the way to go.
The Tesla CEO and founder of SpaceX has found his looming acquisition of the social media platform presents different challenges than the electric vehicle and commercial space sectors. After saying his deal for Twitter was “on hold” on Friday, he quickly added that he remained committed to the acquisition.
“Whoever thought owning the libs would be cheap never tried to acquire a social media company!” Mr. Musk said on Saturday.
• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at email@example.com.
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