After suspending his $44bn deal to buy Twitter Elon Musk criticises company’s algorithmically defined Home feed, saying it ‘manipulates’ users
Elon Musk has said Twitter’s legal team accused him of violating a nondisclosure agreement after a tweet about the platform’s sample size for checks on automated users.
The back-and-forth comes after Musk suspended his $44 billion (£36bn) cash deal to buy Twitter while he evaluates Twitter’s figures on fake accounts.
“Twitter legal just called to complain that I violated their NDA by revealing the bot check sample size is 100!” Musk wrote on Twitter on Saturday.
He earlier wrote that his team would test “a random sample of 100 followers” on Twitter to identify bots.
When a user asked Musk to elaborate on the process of testing for fakes, Musk replied, “I picked 100 as the sample size number, because that is what Twitter uses to calculate <5% fake/spam/duplicate.”
This was the tweet that prompted Twitter’s response, he said.
In the early hours of Sunday Musk said he is yet to see “any” analysis showing the social media company’s fake accounts amount to under 5 percent of its user base, as the company has claimed.
He later said there is “some chance it might be over 90 percent of daily active users”.
Over the weekend Musk also urged users to set their default feed to “Latest tweets” rather than the algorithmically sorted “Home” feed.
“You are being manipulated by the algorithm in ways you don’t realise,” he wrote.
Elon, check this out https://t.co/M1LziOwmmC
— Pranay Pathole (@PPathole) May 14, 2022
Twitter co-founder and former chief executive Jack Dorsey replied that the algorithm is “designed simply to save you time when you are away from app for a while” by highlighting significant tweets.
Research by Indiana University has suggested that social media algorithms can aid the spread of misinformation, and Twitter’s own research found its algorithms could give more prominence to the political right.
In a later message to another user, Dorsey acknowledged the algorithm can have “unintended consequences”.
Twitter earlier this year made an attempt to switch all users to the algorithmic Home timeline by default, but gave up on the plan in March after an outcry.
Donald Trump said on the Truth Social social media platform that he owns that there was “no way” Musk would conclude his Twitter acquisition after realising it is “largely based on bots of spam accounts”.
Trump recently began posting regularly on the service, which launched in February.
Popular conservative Twitter users reported receiving large numbers of of new followers after Musk announced his Twitter acquisition plan in April.
Musk claimed he would bring back banned accounts, including that of Trump, and would loosen the platform’s content moderation policies.
But Trump said he would not return to Twitter if allowed to do so, and would exclusively use Truth Social.