I mean, it’s not surprising, but still…
According to a new report from Platformer, the Twitter 2.0 team has established a list of around 35 celebrity accounts that are being granted an additional reach boost on the platform, in order to ensure that these users are seeing high engagement with every tweet, thus incentivizing to keep sharing their thoughts in the app.
The list was reportedly kicked off February, after Twitter chief Elon Musk noticed that engagement on his own tweets was in decline. In response, Musk tasked his engineers with ensuring that his tweets, specifically, were seen by as many people as possible. From there, Musk and Co. have reportedly expanded that approach to ensure that a range of VIPs get the same treatment, with Musk’s view being that they’d be as upset as he was if their visibility were to drop.
Twitter’s VIP list, in addition to Musk, now includes:
- Politicians Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and President Joe Biden
- NBA star LeBron James, and ESPN NBA journalist Adrian Wojnarowski
- Conservative commentators Ben Shapiro and catturd2
- YouTube star Mr Beast
- Investor Marc Andreesen
- A range of journalists, including Matt Yglesias, Glenn Greenwald and Noah Smith
Given Musk’s general dislike of journalists, you’d assume that these users have been hand-picked by him, which also likely means that they probably align, for the most part, with his own ideological stances.
As noted, the VIP list is no real surprise, but it does seem to go against the very thing that Musk has made a very specific, very public stand against, in regards to social platform management manually interfering with their systems to amplify or restrict certain content over time.
The recent ‘Twitter Files’ expose, overseen by Musk, has criticized the past actions of Twitter managers for making pretty much the same calls, in deciding what should and should not get more exposure in the app. Now, it seems, Musk and Co. are doing the same.
It’s also worth noting the strong US, and US political focus of the VIP list.
Twitter has more US users than any other single region, so it makes some sense that American issues and celebrities would be a focus. But overall, of Twitter’s 253 million daily actives, US users only make up 17.5% of its overall audience.
Given this, the emphasis on US politics, in particular, makes little sense for the majority of users, so it seems a little alienating that Twitter’s pushing so much political content to non-American audiences.
The same can be said for Elon’s Twitter Blue subscription push. As Musk announced yesterday, soon, only Twitter Blue verified accounts will be eligible to have their tweets displayed in ‘For You’ feed recommendations, the main feed in the app, which Musk says is a necessary step to combat ‘bot swarms’ in the app.
Musk’s view is that paying $8 per month is not a significant outlay, so more people should just pay up, and contribute to his bot-battling cause. But for users in developing markets, that is a lot of money, and may well be beyond the reach of most.
Of particular note in this context is that Twitter has seen virtually no growth in its US user base since 2020, with the majority of its audience expansion since coming from emerging markets, like India and Indonesia.
It seems, then, that if Elon and Co. continue pushing this US-centric approach, that could cause impacts in these regions, which may hurt Twitter’s overall viability as a platform, and restrict growth opportunities.
But Elon has his own way of doing things, and he’ll take the path that he best sees fit, regardless of past experiences or impacts at other apps.
But such changes all have an effect.
Thus far, Elon claims that his impact at Twitter has been overwhelmingly positive, but whether that holds through this next wave of major tweaks, we’ll have to wait and see.
Either way, if you were wondering why you’re seeing more tweets from certain users in your feed, this may well be why.