It’s a new chapter of Elon Musk and his bizarre Twitter decisions. This time, the social network’s CEO said Twitter will only show verified accounts on the “For You” algorithmic timeline starting April 15.
In a tweet, Musk justified the move, saying it was “the only realistic way to deal with the takeover of advanced AI robot swarms.” While the Tesla CEO suggested that the decision to ban unverified accounts from endorsements was aimed at combating bots, he did mention that “verified” bots that don’t impersonate humans can be displayed on the “For You” timeline. So basically you have to be a paying user, brand or government official to be recommended by Twitter’s algorithm.
Twitter has been trying to promote the “For You” timeline for some time now despite the negative opinions of many users. The decision to make it an algorithmically only verified feed will not be a popular decision either. Notably, analysts suggest that Twitter currently only has 385,000 paying users. Additionally, the company is removing legacy verification checkmarks from previously notable accounts on April 1. So, the algorithmic feed will be populated by paid accounts in addition to brands and official accounts, making it a very skewed timeline.
Musk also said that going forward, only verified accounts will be able to participate in polls. But we don’t know if these are polls created by Twitter (or him) or all the polls on the platform. As always, the announcement is confusing.
Last year, Twitter briefly instituted a policy to ban handles and links to other social networks like Facebook and Instagram. This decision backfired and, after heavy criticism, the company overturned the rule. At that time, Musk said that every major policy decision would go through a poll (Spoiler: it doesn’t). Soon after, he launched a poll asking people if he should step down as CEO. At the end of it, 57.5% voted in favor.
After these events, several people suggested that bots accounted for a large portion of those votes. At that time, Musk took note of a user suggestion to limit voting policy for paying subscribers only. With the latest statement, he could finally implement this change.
This development comes days after GitHub removed leaked source code from Twitter. Additionally, Musk promised to open the social network’s recommendation algorithm on March 31. We’ll have to wait and see if the code contains references to limit it to verified users only.