On Tuesday, Twitter users wondered why their timelines were displaying so many tweets from Elon Musk. Now, a new report provides a reason: Musk was upset that his tweet about the Super Bowl got fewer views than one from U.S. President Joe Biden.
The Twitter CEO flew his private jet from the Super Bowl in Phoenix to the Bay Area Sunday night to complain about his tweet’s relatively low engagement, reports Platformer, a newsletter from technology journalists Zoë Schiffer and Casey Newton. After Musk ordered his employees to fix the problem, Twitter engineers let Musk’s tweets bypass the platform’s algorithms for determining the best content for users, landing Musk’s posts atop users’ feeds.
Biden’s tweet about the Super Bowl—in which the president cheered for the Philadelphia Eagles given his wife’s ties to the city—currently has 29 million views. Elon Musk deleted his tweet supporting the Eagles after they lost, but the tweet received approximately 9 million views, according to Platformer.
On Tuesday, users on Twitter reported seeing more tweets from Musk on the platform’s “For You” tab, which displays tweets to users according to their interests, including from accounts they don’t follow. (The platform’s “Following” tab only shows tweets, in reverse chronological order, from accounts the user follows.)
The flood of Musk tweets was a deliberate consequence of changes to Twitter’s algorithm, Platformer reports. The company ordered 80 engineers to work on boosting Musk’s engagement; that team allowed the CEO’s tweets to skirt safeguards that prevent one user’s tweets from dominating someone’s entire feed.
(Musk first joked about his tweets overwhelming people’s accounts, then said Twitter will make “adjustments” to its systems.)
Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company no longer has a communications department to handle media inquiries.
Last Thursday, Platformer reported that Musk is increasingly concerned about his tweets’ low engagement. At a meeting to discuss reasons why, one of the company’s top engineers tried to explain that interest in Musk was declining in general, using a chart from Google Trends tracking searches for “Elon Musk” as evidence.
Musk reportedly fired the engineer on the spot.
Musk’s deputies then told engineers that they’d be fired if they didn’t solve the problem of Musk’s slumping engagement, according to Platformer.
Elon Musk has one of the platform’s most followed accounts, with 128 million followers. By comparison, Biden’s official Twitter account has 29.5 million followers.
The U.S. president has long irritated Musk, who believes the White House downplays Tesla’s record in manufacturing electric vehicles in favor of legacy automakers like GM.
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