This is a new chapter of Elon Musk and his strange Twitter decisions. This time, the social network’s CEO has declared that Twitter will only show verified accounts on the algorithmic “For You” timeline starting April 15.
In a tweet, Musk justified the move by saying this is the “only realistic way to address advanced AI bot swarms taking over.” While the Tesla CEO suggested that the move to prohibit non-verified accounts from recommendations was to tackle bots, he mentioned that “verified” bots that don’t impersonate humans are eligible to be shown on the “For You” timeline. So essentially you have to be a paid user, a brand, or a government official to be recommended by Twitter’s algorithm.
Twitter has been trying to promote the “For You” timeline for a while now despite negative opinions from many users. The move to make it a verified-only algorithmic feed won’t be a popular decision either. Notably, analysts suggest that Twitter has only 385,000 paying users at the moment. Plus, the company is removing legacy verification checkmarks of previously notable accounts on April 1. So the algorithmic feed will be filled by paid accounts in addition to brands and officials’ accounts making it for a very skewed timeline.
Musk also said that going forward only verified accounts will be able to take part in polls. But it’s unclear if that is meant to be polls created by Twitter (or him) or all polls on the platform. As always, the announcement is confusing.
Last year, Twitter briefly instated a policy to ban handles and links to other social networks like Facebook and Instagram. The move backfired, 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 hasn’t). Soon after, he launched a poll asking people if he should step down as a CEO. By the end of it, 57.5% voted in favor.
After these events, several people suggested that bots accounted for a lot of these votes. At that time, Musk took note of a user suggestion to limit policy voting to only paying subscribers. With the latest statement, he might be finally implementing this change.
This development comes days after GitHub took down Twitter’s leaked sourced code. What’s more, 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 limiting it to only verified users.