Just as promised, Elon Musk has made Twitter’s algorithm open-source meaning everybody is free to trawl through the code and pick apart how it works. Sharp-eyed users quickly spotted that part of the algorithm even features Musk’s name, a feature that he said was unknown to him.
During a Twitter Spaces live event on Friday, March 31, Musk addressed questions about the social media platform's source code being published on GitHub after it had been leaked online. Users pointed out that “author_is_elon" has been coded into Twitter's recommendation algorithm, identifying it was Musk who posted the tweet.
"I think it's weird," Musk responded. "This is the first time I'm learning of this, by the way."
It was also clocked that the code registered tweets authored by "Republican," "Democrat," and "power user" as specific directives for the recommendations algorithm under For You. These parts of the code have since been removed.
Illuminating these kinds of “stupid and embarrassing” insights into the algorithm is all part of the process, Musk said. He told the caller: "It definitely shouldn't be dividing people into Democrats and Republicans, that makes no sense. It sounds like you’ve identified something we should get rid of right away, quite frankly.”
Twitter posted the full code on GitHub last week. In a blog post, it explains that the open-source approach could help users with how Twitter decides which tweets show up on your For You timeline.
The social media giant also says it's also opting for this practice to help refine the algorithm by opening it up to user criticism and feedback. "The intent is not to say 'hey, here is our incredible open-source: it is a flawless gem.' It's like, no, it's got a lot of issues that need to be fixed and I think you might have identified at least one of them," Musk said.
“Our ‘algorithm’ is overly complex & not fully understood internally. People will discover many silly things, but we’ll patch issues as soon as they’re found! We’re developing a simplified approach to serve more compelling tweets, but it’s still a work in progress. That’ll also be open source,” Musk tweeted.
“Providing code transparency will be incredibly embarrassing at first, but it should lead to rapid improvement in recommendation quality. Most importantly, we hope to earn your trust,” he added.