Elon Musk reinvents Twitter for the benefit of a power user

SAN FRANCISCO — Nearly four months into Elon Musk’s ownership of Twitter, one of the most influential social media websites has been transformed into a mercurial billionaire’s personal sandbox.Twitter users knew the site would change under Musk, who purchased the company in October for $44 billion and installed himself as CEO on a promise of restoring “free speech.” What many underestimated was the extent to which Musk would make wholesale changes with the potential to disrupt the experience across the site for his own benefit.

That approach was illustrated dramatically this week when the site Platformer reported Twitter had made major algorithmic changes — on Musk’s orders — that resulted in users seeing the billionaire’s tweets first. Musk had been worried that his engagement was declining: His tweet throwing support behind the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl had not performed as well as President Biden’s, for example. The fix that Twitter rolled out pushed Musk’s tweets to the top of many users’ feeds, something widely noted by users.

A new feature displaying view counts on tweets that rolled out late last year showed Musk’s tweets at the time were driving massive engagement, including more than 1 billion views on Dec. 18, for example. All in all, Musk’s tweets on a typical day in December were shown 231 million times.But that number dropped off substantially this year. Between Jan. 1 and the Super Bowl, Musk’s tweets were shown only 137 million times on a typical day. This week, after his posts were artificially boosted, he’s up to around 400 million per day, according to a Washington Post analysis of the view counts.

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