Insiders Say Musk Making Twitter Algorithm Open Won’t Stop Censorship

March 31st, 2023 3:54 PM

Twitter CEO Elon Musk announced late last night that Twitter’s “Algorithm goes open source at noon Pacific Time” (today). But the tweet begged a couple of questions: What does that mean and why is he doing this? MRC Free Speech America asked industry insiders. 

Musk released the news just hours after the Media Research Center released a damning study revealing that Twitter censorship has actually increased under Musk’s leadership. But the move seems to be more of a distraction from Twitter's ongoing problem with censorship.

Executive Director of Digital First Project Nathan Leamer told MRC Free Speech America in exclusive comments said that “The algorithm is interesting and noteworthy, but I think that there is a problem at the management level and the way that they execute things at that company, as well as the kind of questions of who is holed up in the Twitter offices continuing to be vigilant in their suppression of conservative speech.” 

As Vice President of MRC Free Speech America & MRC Business Dan Schneider described it, “transparency is a good thing, but it’s not the only thing. Releasing the algorithm without ending the censorship regime is like taking the blindfold off a man in front of a firing squad.” 

Leamer and a high-level employee at a social media company who asked not to be identified explained that releasing the algorithm will allow those who examine it to know how Twitter delivers content. “It’s the black box of how they deliver content which will definitely tell you their ‘integrity signals,’ things they rely on to deem content good or bad,” the social media insider said.

Leamer added that “if Twitter is open source it may open up some information about the algorithm in terms of like how certain decisions are made, in terms of whether things are suppressed or promoted or if shadowbanning is happening.”

But that’s not all. “I think he’s scratching an itch that’s been around for a couple of years,” the upper-level tech employee told MRC Free Speech America. “The market acknowledges that in the beginning of social media, our job was to show people content they wanted to see and that made social media productive, helpful for their lives and now we’re at a point where people don’t trust corporations to make those decisions anymore.”

But the social media insider, a former Twitter employee, and Leamer agreed on something else too: releasing the algorithm will not solve anything. 

On a very practical note, a former Twitter employee who has asked not to be identified noted that the algorithm will not result in transparency as it would likely be “unintelligible” to most Twitter users who have little experience dealing with code. 

But it also is not a sufficient solution to Twitter censorship. “Elon kind of relies on his cult of personality to get things done and I don’t always think he empowers or necessarily brings people around him who are best equipped to carry out his vision,” said Leamer. “Instead of bringing together a Trust and Safety team or a Content moderation team who understands his worldview and his vision of free speech and enabling expression and kind of the principles he outlined at the beginning of his takeover, there are a lot of holdovers. There’s a lot of people who aren’t necessarily fully empowered to bring that to fruition truly.” 

Musk’s Twitter banned 11 pro-free speech outlets, journalists and leaders of their accounts for reporting on the infamous Trans Day of Vengeance, set to take place March 31-April 2. The censorship assault targeted the Media Research Center and its video division MRCTV, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Federalist CEO Sean Davis and RedState’s editor-at-large Ben Kew, among others.

A new MRC Free Speech America study showed that censorship on Twitter has shockingly risen after Elon Musk took over.

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