This is a new chapter of Elon Musk and his strange Twitter decisions. This time around, the social network’s CEO has stated that starting April 15, Twitter will only show verified accounts on the algorithmic “For You” timeline.
In a tweet, Musk justified the move by saying it’s the “only realistic way to deal with advanced AI bot swarms taking over.” While Tesla’s CEO suggested the move to ban unauthenticated accounts from endorsements was to crack down on bots, he said “verified” bots that don’t impersonate humans are eligible to be featured on the “For You” timeline. So essentially you have to be a paid user, a brand or a government official to get recommended by Twitter’s algorithm.
Twitter has been trying to promote the “For You” timeline for some time, despite the negative opinions of many users. The move to make it an algorithmic-only verified feed won’t be a popular decision either. Notably, analysts suggest that Twitter currently has just 385,000 paying users. In addition, on April 1, the company is removing obsolete verification checks from previously notable accounts. So the algorithmic feed will be populated with paid accounts alongside brands and official accounts, making it a very skewed timeline.
Musk also said that only verified accounts will be able to participate in polls in the future. But it’s unclear whether that means polls created by Twitter (or him) or all polls on the platform. As always, the announcement is confusing.
Last year, Twitter briefly introduced a policy to ban handles and links to other social networks like Facebook and Instagram. The move failed, and after heavy criticism, the company reversed the rule. At that time, Musk said that every major policy decision would go through a poll (spoiler: it didn’t). Soon after, he launched a poll asking people if he should step down as CEO. In the end, 57.5% voted in favour.
After these events multiple people suggested that bots accounted for many of these votes. It was then that Musk took note of a user suggestion to restrict policy votes for paying subscribers only. With the last statement, he could finally make this change.
This development comes days after GitHub removed the leaked source code from Twitter. In addition, Musk promised to open source the social network’s recommendation algorithm on March 31. We’ll have to wait and see if the code has references to restrict it to only authenticated users.