We now know why Twitter’s algorithm seems to recommend some users’ tweets so often. Newsletter Platformer reports that the company has a secret VIP list of a few dozen accounts “it monitors and offers increased visibility” in its recommendation algorithm. The accounts include Elon Musk, as well as a handful of other prominent Twitter users.
The revelation comes as Musk has repeatedly promised to make Twitter’s recommendation algorithms open source. He also recently stated that soon only paid subscribers to Twitter Blue would be eligible to have their tweets displayed in the algorithmic “For You” feed. It’s not clear if that change would also affect the VIP list of users who regularly get a boost in the feed. Some of the accounts on the list, like President Joe Biden and YouTuber Mr Beast, are currently verified but don’t pay for Twitter Blue. Twitter no longer has a communications team to respond to questions.
According to Platformer, the VIP list was “originally created to monitor the engagement received by Twitter power users” as the company has tried to allay suspicions that its “shadowbans” certain users to reduce their visibility on the platform. “Our ‘algorithm’ is overly complex & not fully understood internally,” Musk recently tweeted.
But the list, which reportedly is only 35 accounts in addition to Musk, is also telling about who Musk believes should benefit from Twitter’s algorithm. Platformer didn’t publish the entire list, which includes LeBron James, New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, venture capitalist Marc Andreesen, Tesla fan account @teslaownerssv and conservative personality Ben Shapiro. It also includes @catturd2, an account recently described by Rolling Stone as the “Sh-tposting King of MAGA Twitter.”
It’s also not the first time that a report has surfaced about how Musk has tweaked Twitter’s algorithm to boost his own tweets. Last month, Musk said the company was fixing an issue that caused users’ For You feeds to be overwhelmed with dozens of Musk tweets. Platformer later reported that Twitter employees had changed its algorithm to favor Musk after the CEO was mad that his Super Bowl tweet didn’t receive as much engagement as Biden’s. Musk reportedly fired an engineer who suggested the lack of engagement was due to declining interest in his tweets.