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Elon Musk artificially boosted on Twitter after post about Super Bowl beaten by Joe Biden

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Billionaire Elon Musk was so agitated by the performance of his tweets during the Super Bowl that he threatened to fire staff and instigated a policy change to exclusively boost his own posts, it has been reported.

Mr Musk and US President Joe Biden both posted tweets expressing their support for the Philadelphia Eagles ahead of Sunday’s NFL game, which was ultimately won by the Kansas City Chiefs, with Mr Musk watching from the stands.

Mr Biden’s post earned about 29 million impressions, far exceeding Mr Musk’s nine million.

Mr Musk later deleted his tweet. He did not explain why.

Platformer, a news website which covers social media networks, reports Twitter’s boss was sufficiently annoyed by his relative lack of reach that his team roused the company’s experts in the middle of the night to address it.

Mr Musk’s cousin James, who was hired by his famous relative to work at Twitter, sent a Slack message to the company’s engineers at 2:36am on Monday, local time.

“We are debugging an issue with engagement across the platform,” he wrote.

“Any people who can make dashboards and write software, please can you help solve this problem. This is high urgency. If you are willing to help out please thumbs up this post.”

When the engineers logged on, Platformer reports, they discovered the “high urgency” issue was Mr Musk’s Super Bowl tweet getting less engagement than Mr Biden’s.

Mr Musk reportedly flew back to California on his private jet after the game on Sunday night to “demand answers”, and “threatened to fire” his engineers, who worked through the night to investigate why his posts weren’t drawing more eyeballs.

Platformer reports the engineers drew up a solution to ensure Mr Musk’s tweets would benefit from “previously unheard of” promotion. Within 24 hours, Twitter deployed code that would “greenlight” the CEO’s tweets automatically, meaning they would bypass the usual filters designed to show people the best possible content.

The new arrangement “artificially boosted Mr Musk’s tweets by a factor of 1000”.

His dramatically increased presence in users’ timelines did not go unnoticed. By Tuesday afternoon he was publicly acknowledging it, posting a meme and promising “adjustments” to the algorithm.

According to Platformer, which based its reporting on interviews with people involved and documents it had obtained, an artificial boost is still in place for Mr Musk’s account, though the effect has been somewhat reduced.

Mr Musk’s frequent interventions in the day-to-day minutiae at Twitter appear to be wearing thin with its remaining staff, who have seen the majority of the company’s workforce cut.

“He bought the company, made a point of showcasing what he believed was broken and manipulated under previous management, then turns around and manipulates the platform to force engagement on all users to hear only his voice,” one employee told Platformer.

“I think we’re past the point of believing that he actually wants what’s best for everyone.”

Mr Musk, who is also the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, has been particularly preoccupied with his own reach on the social platform.

The Tuesday before the Super Bowl, he demanded answers from engineers at Twitter’s headquarters, asking why his engagement numbers were falling.

“This is ridiculous. I have more than 100 million followers, and I’m only getting tens of thousands of impressions,” he said at the time, again according to Platformer.

One of Twitter’s principal engineers suggested a simple explanation: that public interest in Mr Musk’s posts had dropped off. The CEO was told no evidence had been found to indicate that his reach had been artificially restricted.

Mr Musk responded by firing the principal engineer.

That prompted Twitter employees to vent about his unfocused management style, saying it involved moving “from dumpster fire to dumpster fire” and didn’t “make any sense”.

Mr Musk, who previously committed to step down as CEO if Twitter’s users voted for it in a poll, says he will find someone new for the position by the end of the year.

Read related topics:Elon Musk

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