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Elon Musk’s latest plan for Twitter hasn’t gone down well

Elon Musk has said that from April 15, Twitter accounts will have to be subscribed to Twitter Blue to have any chance of their tweets appearing in the For You recommendations feed. Membership of Twitter’s premium tier will also be required to vote in Twitter polls, he said.

Musk, who acquired Twitter in October 2022 in a deal worth $44 billion, said the move was “the only realistic way to address advanced AI bot swarms taking over” the For You feed. Offered as an alternative to the Following feed, For You deploys an algorithm to serve up tweets that it thinks you’ll like, often from accounts that you don’t follow.

Handily, more sign-ups to Blue will also help Twitter to boost its bottom line, one of Musk’s stated goals for the platform.

“Starting April 15th, only verified accounts will be eligible to be in For You recommendations,” Musk said in a tweet on Monday night. “The [sic] is the only realistic way to address advanced AI bot swarms taking over. It is otherwise a hopeless losing battle.”

Starting April 15th, only verified accounts will be eligible to be in For You recommendations.

The is the only realistic way to address advanced AI bot swarms taking over. It is otherwise a hopeless losing battle.

Voting in polls will require verification for same reason.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 27, 2023

As you’d expect, many of Twitter’s community of more than 230 million daily active users were quick to respond to Musk’s tweet, and most were unhappy about the decision. One user said he couldn’t support it, adding: “You need to invest money into talent and AI tech to detect bots on the platform. This isn’t the way to go. It could tarnish the platform.” Musk replied: “My prediction is that this will be the only platform you can trust.”

Another tweeted: “So basically if you can’t afford to pay for Twitter your voice cannot be amplified in the ‘Town Square’?”, while another mused: “How does this prevent verified accounts that are impersonating non-verified accounts (eg. ‘notable figures’) from getting even more visibility?”

Musk’s announcement comes just a few days after Twitter said that from April 1 it will begin removing “legacy” blue badges from any accounts that haven’t yet signed up for Twitter Blue.

Twitter revamped its checkmark system following Musk’s takeover of the company last fall. Pre-Musk, the badges acted as an authentication mark and were given to notable figures for free. But now the checks are given to all accounts subscribed to Twitter Blue, providing certain eligibility requirements are met.

It’s possible that Musk’s announcement on Monday was also prompted by concerns that some of those with legacy checkmarks — almost all of which belong to notable figures with large followings — have no intention of joining Twitter Blue and are therefore willing to lose their blue badge on April 1.

Musk may be calculating that by threatening to remove their tweets from the For You recommendations feed, some of those users may end up joining Blue to give their posts a chance of reaching more people, which could in turn lead to something very important to account holders: an increase in followers.

Twitter’s premium tier is available for purchase via the web for $8 per month (or $84 per year), or in-app via iOS and Android for $11 per month (or $115 per year).

Will Twitter really go through with the move to banish non-subscribers’ tweets from the For You feed? Watch this space.

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Trevor Mogg
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