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Elon Musk now has more Twitter followers than Barack Obama

By Savannah Hamilton
|
April 2, 2023

Last Monday, Elon Musk became the most followed person on Twitter, stealing the title from former President Barack Obama, who has held it since 2020. As of the writing of this article, Musk has approximately 133.4 million followers, while Obama has only 133 million.

Musk managed to beat the Guinness World Record in just 5 months, following his acquisition of the social media platform. Obama, meanwhile, appears to have lost around half a million followers during this time.

Obama has not made any comment on the matter.

Musk purchased Twitter on October 27, 2022. At the time, he had only 110 million followers while Obama had 133.5 million. Considering that Twitter has around 450 million users, this means about 30% follow Musk.

While some are celebrating, others don’t believe Musk got there fairly.

“I find it hard to believe that tens of millions of *real* people would choose to follow Elon in that short a time,” says Esther Ciammachilli, a Twitter user.

Recent revelations following the publication of Twitter’s algorithm showed there is truth to such suspicions.

Taking Shortcuts

It was recently revealed that Musk’s growth was not organic after all. According to sources, Musk had his software engineers develop a special system that would boost his tweets above all other users.

Musk allegedly “threatened to fire his engineering team if they did not fix the engagement issue.”

This move came after President Joe Biden received far more impressions despite tweeting a very similar post to Musk during the 2023 Super Bowl. 

It appears this change was not temporary. After the Twitter algorithm was made public over the weekend, keen analysts pointed out why Musk’s posts still have privilege on the platform. 

According to the code, which is now open-source, Twitter has a separate code tracking the performance of Musk’s tweets, whereas everyone else is grouped into either a “democrat,” “republican”, “power_user” or “elon” category.

Musk denied having knowledge of this and replied, ”This is the first time I'm seeing this.”

It is not the first time that Twitter users have complained, however, with one user saying that his entire feed is “Elon Musk tweets and replies.”

According to Zoë Schiffer, editor at tech blog Platformer, the code that promoted Musk’s posts above everyone else was removed before the algorithm was released.

A Platform Divided

The grand reveal of the algorithm sparked concerns other than Musk’s social media engagements. One of the items that raised eyebrows was why users were grouped into “republican” and “democrat” categories and what this might mean.

A Twitter developer claimed this code was solely for statistics to ensure that neither side of the political spectrum is negatively impacted by future changes to the algorithm.

Another finding that was found questionable was that all users are grouped into smaller clusters of “similar interests” and that posting outside this group would get you down-ranked.

Some also found it surprising that any posts about Ukraine would be less likely to show up on public feeds.

Twitter could not be reached for comment as their Press email account has recently been changed to auto-respond to all press messages with a poo emoji.