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Researcher: Twitter’s Algorithm Reveals Government Intervention Tool
A developer has discovered a U.S. government intervention option and other insights in Twitter’s recently open sourceed recommendation algorithm.
The Post Millenial reports that on Friday, Twitter released a portion of its recommendation algorithm on GitHub, a website where programmers can share and work together on open-source code. Concerns about possible government influence on the platform were raised when developer Steven Tey examined the code and found a mechanism that permits the U.S. government to alter the Twitter algorithm.
Tey revealed his research on the mechanism for intervention, saying, “When needed, the government can intervene with the Twitter algorithm. In fact, @TwitterEng (Twitter Engineering) even has a class for it – ‘GovernmentRequested.'” Tey also provided a direct link to the code on GitHub for public review.
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Elon Musk, who purchased the platform for $44 billion, had announced in March last year that Twitter’s algorithm should be open source. He later stated, “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!”
Tey discovered that the algorithm also considers a user’s following-to-follower ratio, with page rankings being affected for users who have a high following count but a low number of followers.
In order to track and compare tweet impressions on other users, the algorithm also promotes Twitter Blue subscribers and groups users into categories like “power users,” “Democrat users,” “Republican users,” and “@elonmusk.”
Tey identified elements that could adversely affect a user’s “reputation score,” such as being blocked or muted, as well as factors that influence whether a user’s content will appear in the “For You” recommendations. Additionally, he mentioned how the algorithm and how candidates appear for users to follow are affected by the presidential elections.
Following earlier revelations from the Twitter files, a collection of reports describing internal discussions at Twitter under its previous management, this discovery of the “GovernmentRequested” intervention option is a troubling development. The documents revealed the company’s attempts at content moderation and cooperation with law enforcement, including hiring former FBI agents and working with the FBI and Department of Homeland Security.
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