Twitter owner Elon Musk announced that he will publicly share the algorithms that Twitter uses to recommend content in the coming weeks.
“Twitter will open source all code used to recommend tweets on March 31st,” Musk said in a March 17 tweet.
Social media algorithms can connect users with people they may know, groups, artists, events, or posts that may be interesting, and other personalized relevant content. But critics warn these algorithms can also be used to promote certain ideologies or viewpoints to the detriment of others.
Musk’s move to release the algorithms is unprecedented, as such algorithms are usually closely guarded trade secrets among their creators.
Since purchasing Twitter in 2022, Musk has used his platform to reveal a trove of documents dubbed the Twitter Files, outlining the managerial practices of Twitter’s former ownership. Among other findings, these documents have revealed that Twitter colluded with the federal government and FBI to suppress certain stories or positions.
Musk’s move to release Twitter’s recommendation algorithm comes in the wake of a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee probe into the issue led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
In a letter on the issue to four major tech executives, Cruz warned of the ways that recommendation algorithms can affect political outcomes and beliefs.
“In a world where seven out of ten Americans receive their political news from social media, the manner in which content is filtered through recommendation systems has an undeniable effect on what Americans see, think, and ultimately believe,” Cruz said.
At their worst, Cruz said, these algorithms can be a recipe for addiction and a pipeline to obscene or harmful material, or can be redirected for partisan ends.
During the last Congress, the Senate heard whistleblower testimony from a former Meta employee who revealed the ways that social media can guide users and young children to content like the kinds referenced by Cruz.
Musk did not clarify if the move was in response to Cruz’s investigation.
Musk has changed his political stances in recent years, portraying his decision to purchase Twitter for $44 billion as part of a larger effort to defend freedom of speech and expression online.