Twitter has reversed course on plans to limit presence on its “for you” timeline to paying users only, with Elon Musk claiming he “forgot to mention” that other users would be visible as well.
When the company’s owner first announced the plan on Tuesday he said it would limit the tab that algorithmically curates tweets for users to only display accounts who had paid £8 a month for “Twitter Blue” and linked their account to a working phone number.
Musk said restricting it to those subscribers, who will be the only “verified” users on the site after Twitter closes its “legacy” verification program on Saturday, was “the only realistic way to address advanced AI bot swarms taking over”.
The announcement was met with a backlash from many users, however, and later that day Musk said in a second tweet: “Forgot to mention that accounts you follow directly will also be in For You, since you have explicitly asked for them.”
Since its launch under Musk, as a rebranded version of the pre-existing “recommended” feed, the for you tab has proved controversial. It is more aggressively curated than its predecessor, regularly inserting tweets from accounts the user does not follow, and has a noted predilection for pushing tweets from a small number of prominent accounts into as many feeds as possible: such as Menswear commentator @dieworkwear, conservative commentator Ben Shapiro and almost every public post from Musk himself.
The stated rationale for limiting the for you tab to paid accounts only was to prevent “bot swarms” from dominating it. Musk has been focused on the prominence of automated spam accounts since before he even bought the site, citing spam as one of the key reasons why he wanted to acquire it, and later citing the same spam as one of the reasons he should be allowed to renege on the deal.
However, his focus stepped into a higher gear in late December, after he posted a “binding” poll to ask whether he should step down as the head of the company. Within 24 hours, more than 10 million users had voted in favour of him resigning, 57.5% of the overall votes.
The following day, Musk broke his silence only to tweet the word “interesting” to several suggestions that the results of the poll were skewed by fake accounts, and to agree with a suggestion that only paid-for accounts should be able to vote in polls. That policy is on track to be introduced on 15 April, Musk said in a tweet on Tuesday.