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Content moderation at Elon Musk’s Twitter

Forget the Twitter Files, citizen journalism, or profit-sharing for creators. Elon Musk’s Twitter has one priority, and that is Elon Musk. It appears that he bought the company so he could broadcast his message without interference from legacy media. And it is possible, and this is only a theory, that he bought it because he wants to own a recognised media brand. I’m thinking of his 15-year feud with Jeff Bezos, who owns the Washington Post. 

The majority of legacy media is against Elon Musk because they know that Twitter has given the power back to people with its no-biased censorship.

Twitter takeover has changed the media forever – for the good. @elonmusk

Originally tweeted by DogeDesigner (@cb_doge) on January 29, 2023.

People think Musk wasted $44 billion ‘on an app’. It is not an odd choice when you realise that he has paid about $119.56 per user so that he can freely promote his businesses to them. (That figure is based on 368 million unique monthly users). 

If you’re on Twitter, what does content moderation look like? The latest change is that the smart technology has been showing you more posts from accounts you don’t follow. If you’re Elon Musk, your tweets will be shown to potentially 368 million unique users. But in reality, they are being shown to lots of people who will simply scroll past. Because of these changes, your follower count doesn’t matter as much as it used to. Engagement is key to content moderation. 

And though this reality is clear, content management is still incredibly frustrating. The ideas I shared in my earlier posts are still useful. In fact, they are more relevant now that the platform is focused on ‘real people talking to each other’. In light of certain new developments, I want to share some ideas and strategies that will help you to optimise your presence on the platform. 

Let’s focus on content moderation. Content moderation on Twitter is still facilitated by smart technology, or machine learning systems. But after Elon Musk fired more than 50% of the tech staff, the remaining staff have needed to make adjustments. They need time to write millions of lines of code in order to trial Musk’s hare-brained ideas, or to write useless reports for one of his lackeys. Then, they need to work overtime to press the “undo” button 10,000 times after trials are met with backlash. 

Perhaps their efficient retasking of the smart technology (by making it ultra sensitive) has led to more intense sorting of tweets, keywords, and accounts into silos. Silos are groups of accounts or tweets, based on keywords and common areas of interest. Read more on how sentiment analysis software helps make those decisions.

The system was always sensitive to your scrolling actions. Even a momentary pause is noticed by the software. And it reads your direct messages. Quite a number of people believe that direct messages are “unseen”. And they would be wrong. Everything you type, either in a public tweet, or in a direct message, helps the system to make decisions about the standing of your account. 

One other priority for the smart tech is to eliminate spam. The system is trained to filter out spam aggressively. Musk wants more organic views from your account, and if the system is overwhelmed by spam, you will not see his tweets. 

Twitter owner Elon Musk tweeted out this dot which generated news headlines and over 52 million views.

Based on observations of user accounts, the best way to get added to a spam list is to send lots of private messages to tweeters who don’t reply back. Other actions? Overtweeting, tweeting the same media (image, GIF, video) multiple times in a day, or replying to tweets and not getting a reply back. These are some actions which are read by the system as either “not engaging with other accounts” or “tweeters don’t like this account”. 

Remember what I said about accounts getting siloed? If your account (A) does any of the above actions and engages with another account (B), this account (B) will be flagged as, “account B is attracting spam accounts like A.” Then, people engaging with B’s tweets will be added to a list marked “accounts interacting with this account B which is in the group with account A”. This is a weird chain reaction that has affected a lot of perfectly legitimate accounts. And it’s unfair.

The phenomenon of people locking their Twitter account with the hope that it will improve engagement is a strange phenomenon. They’re performing a digital ritual to make themselves seen. Doing a little rain dance, but they’re trying to summon views instead of precipitation.

Deprived of any meaningful power, people have become convinced their only influence lies in the visibility of their content. So of course they’re willing to try these little tricks and quasi-spells to spread their content and maximize their power.

Originally tweeted by Travis View (@travis_view) on February 1, 2023.

Recently, quite a few tweeters (including me) have tried locking our accounts to test the idea that our tweets would be further boosted among our subscribers. This worked very well, but it is a glitch and only a temporary fix. Fortunately, I have tested more reliable ways for you to fix your engagement. They’re presented here in no particular order.

  • Block spam accounts as soon as they follow you. Or, remove their follow from your settings on the desktop device/web browser. Do not unfollow many accounts at once, as this will look spammy. Go slowly.  
  • If you already get lots of engagement on your tweets, start restricting replies to people you follow. This will prevent bots from leaving comments on your tweets. Again, bot replies will make your account look spammy if you don’t hide them. 
  • Reply to everyone who comments on your tweets. 
  • Ask subscribers to turn on notifications for your tweets. Only ask for this if you don’t tweet every 10 minutes. Imagine hundreds of people rage blocking you for constantly interrupting them. You will feel bad, so think twice about this. 
  • Use the “following” tab to find active users. Reply to their tweets and invite a response. After 4 – 6 hours, go to your profile and delete replies (and tweets) that received no views or likes. Some people you follow are too busy to reply because they are busy tweeting. You can tell by the cascade of consecutive tweets (not part of a thread) that show up in your feed.
  • Ask more of your followers to subscribe to your blog (because you have one). And remind them to keep up with you that way. Remember that owning your own domain is the best engagement hack ever. 

Twitter is in utter chaos at the moment, but remember that it is a private company devoted to serving its owner’s emotional needs. He needs a breathtaking amount of attention. When I was writing notes for this post, he had posted a dot to his timeline, and it has already generated 52 million views. We are all enablers at this point. And until Elon Musk decides to let someone new play with his joystick, he will remain our fiercest competitor. 

Postscript: February 10, 2023. Another day, another dot tweet. If it is not yet obvious that Mr Musk seeks validation in Twitter engagement (views, likes, retweets, comments), here you go. When the personality decides what the algorithms will prioritise, it is helpful to focus on what is driving the person’s behaviour.

Update: February 11, 2023. Article on Elon Musk throwing a tantrum over low view counts for his tweets. Underscores the purpose of the “point” tweets. And I reiterate the point I made in the beginning of this post – Musk’s motivation is to get attention. Quite a lot of system errors, glitches and outages are caused by the lack of staff to monitor servers that run the platform. But a qualified engineer was fired for not saying what the boss wanted to hear. People are right to focus on the man himself if these are his priorities.

Update: February 15, 2023. Daily Beast is reporting (from a report on Platformer) that Elon did actually mess with Twitter algorithm to juice his own numbers. Adding this here because I was told that Mr Musk’s personality had NOTHING to do with navigating the algorithm. In other words, my initial analysis, which is that Mr Musk’s plan was to use Twitter to poke the eyeballs of all active users on the platform, was correct. And this would be obvious to anyone paying attention to his tweets (like this one his tech staff jacked up to 55 million impressions). At this point being part of this billionaire’s glorification milk tea party is really a choice to remain uninformed. And in response to allegations, here is the tweet from Mr Musk’s account acknowledging that he ordered his staff to mess with the algo so everyone would see his tweets in their feed. I find this quite disgusting.

Update: February 28, 2023. This drama keeps devolving and I’m here for it. I thought mansplaining had died out with the #metoo era but apparently dinosaurs/throwbacks still roam the earth. This is why I’m adding more evidence that Elon Musk, owner of Twitter, is a giant asshole and this directly affects how Twitter operates. And here we are, look at how he unceremoniously fired the staff who pledged their allegiance. One executive slept on the office floor to deliver the impossible and help him save face after he bought Twitter and made it weird. He fired her, too. But not before doing an informal peer review and destroying the Slack channels which helped the engineers to troubleshoot problems. There are now fewer than 1800 people working at the company and that means, like I said, the machine learning software (smart technology) is mostly running the platform. Therefore, tweeters must be careful about triggering the protocols that will get their accounts shadowbanned or siloed.


Life is short, so let’s be decent.

20 replies on “Content moderation at Elon Musk’s Twitter”

CEOs were once role models for the younger generation. They would welcome a challenge in order to become better at their jobs. We used to take cues from them and model our own lives after them. It is strange that a platform which is open to the world is subject to the whims of the owner. I wonder what would happen if McDonald’s decided to stop making hamburgers because the owner decided to go vegan? Some days I feel like I am an extra in a farce.

Liked by 1 person

I’m glad things are changing now. More people have opportunities to do well for themselves and help others. It is a shame that we have not elevated ourselves as a society with all this privilege at our fingertips.


Didn’t know much about him except for the business side, but some of the things he has done are not only immoral, but also illegal. I use Twitter to keep up with the writing community there but and if my friends disappear, so will I.

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On Twitter, it is impossible to write anything critical of him without being told you’re on drugs, etc. It is true, as you say, that I’m giving him attention by being there. If everyone leaves, he will preside over a kingdom of numbskulls, which is what he deserves. It is embarrassing to see him bullying of a disabled person in front of millions. I think that people who defend his behavior are trying to hide their own sins.

Liked by 1 person

Those are bots replying. Pay no attention to them. And he is wrapped up in plenty of legal cases. He is already paying people to defend him so I have no idea why people are volunteering to do that for free.


It took less than a breath the moment I heard Musk boy was attaching himself to Twitter like an alien to Ripley’s face. Nope. No way. I endured the politics for the sake of my blog and exposure but dictatorship isn’t my forte’ as they.

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Thanks for the comment. Great analogy about the alien succubus. The derangement is real. People twist themselves into knots to defend him because he’s on their side politically. Yesterday someone on Twitter told me that Mr Musk was the genius who gave the world microprocessors that power smart phones, and smart phones. Intel and IBM and the thousands of engineers they employ had nothing to do with it.

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That’s just dribble from another Narcissist. I’d be more impressed with the designer of tampons or the electric ice cream freezer. I’ve actually lived as an adult before cell phones and social media and I can say it is possible to do it without pain and suffering.

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Once Musk took over Twitter I deleted my account. I could see the writing on the wall and did not wish to enable Musk in any way. I went over to Mastodon and I find it’s a far better fit for me where I’m having a lot more meaningful engagement. Mastodon doesn’t seem to work for everyone, but I’m really enjoying it.

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Thanks so much for this comment, Joanne. And good on you for backing out. Quite a few of my colleagues have also stepped back. I’m sill there because I find it useful for networking with creatives (via social audio). But there is also Clubhouse. If I were not familiar with programming languages and deep learning systems, I would have been off there ages ago. Best of luck to you.

Liked by 1 person

I actually did end up creating a twitter account, but I’m not sure about having to “interact” with other people. Following AI art and yarn patterns is one thing, but the site keeps recommending aggressively-opinionated tweets, and I’m not touching those. Not to mention, Twitter has a bad reputation for being especially hostile.

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Wow. So sorry about that. This is the issue everyone has been talking about. My account has been fine tuned since 2021 and I’m in a silo (Asia/Europe/Africa) so I don’t get fed too much US politics. It’s hard to navigate if you’re not an ML specialist. In a space now talking about how the platform feels unsafe. And we are networking to support each other as much as we can.

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Some excellent advice, but oddly there is no mention of the intelligence community using twitter as a means to suppress legitimate information during the reign of the prior owner(s). I have no care for Musk, or any other billionaire, but I do find the revelations dropped by Matt Taibbi interesting. So, if Musk needs twitter to promote his business, at least there is an ancillary benefit coming from his ownership.

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This was covered in the Twitter Files and I was there when it all came out. This post is about raising engagement on accounts. I think that most people want to promote books and creative projects so this advice was focused on the algorithm’s current priorities. As long as the machine doesn’t take things too literally everything will be okay.

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I understand, but there seemed to be a slant against Musk and his “emotional needs”, which really don’t add to people maximizing their content on Twitter. So….. I thought it was important to remind people that the prior owner(s) had their own algorithms that made it difficult for some to promote their material. I did enjoy the read, though!

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You are correct and you make a great point. And these issues were raised many times on Twitter before Matt Taibi’s thread. Prior to that, when I and others spoke about censorship, reply deboosting, and shadowbanning on Twitter, our statements were dismissed as baseless conspiracies.

I was listening in the space when Mr Musk abruptly left after being questioned about suspending the accounts of a few journalists. A few hours later, I was unable to launch my own space. This was because the feature was disabled globally for that entire weekend. I also heard him call a software programmer an “asshole” for posing a tough question about Twitter’s systems.

Two things are true. The previous administrators were mostly politically biased and engaged in a lot of censorship. The current owner has a cult of personality around him, and has used his status as owner to censor people. He has also been unfairly targeted by the media which tends to be petty, just as he is. He has investors to pay back so he has to do things to make the company profitable. And he has to comply with legal statutes in several jurisdictions. The situation is pretty much the same as the last time because running a multinational business is complex.

My insights are simplified here but they’re based on witnessing things firsthand.

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