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Elon Musk appears to offer $1 million bounty to 'convict' those responsible for Twitter 'botnets'

Business Insider logo Business Insider 4/2/2023 (Ryan Hogg)
Elon Musk is CEO of Twitter. Carina Johansen/Getty Images © Provided by Business Insider Elon Musk is CEO of Twitter. Carina Johansen/Getty Images
  • Elon Musk appeared to offer a $1 million bounty to help find the source of "botnets" on Twitter.
  • A user identified a negative feedback loop in Twitter's algorithm that hurts accounts if blocked.
  • One said botnets were controlling several accounts and mass-blocking other accounts to suppress them.

Elon Musk appeared to offer a $1 million bounty if the source of "botnets" purportedly targeting reputation scores could be identified after Twitter made some of its algorithms open-source Friday. 

Twitter released coding information that showed how it recommended tweets to followers on the For You feed.

In a Twitter thread, Steven Tey shared his analysis of the information, concluding that Twitter Blue are boosted in the algorithm.


He added that the algorithm was prone to creating "negative feedback loops" that would reduce a user's "reputation score." Getting blocked, muted, and receiving reports of abuse or spam affect a user's score.

Quote-tweeting the thread, user el gato malo alleged this was how "botnets" were able to hurt the reach of certain accounts. 

A botnet refers to a group of computers that have been infected with malware and are being controlled by a single actor, according to cybersecurity company Cloudflare

The user said by taking control of several accounts, botnets were able to suppress certain accounts by mass blocking, unfollowing, and reporting them.

"Who is behind these botnets? Million dollar bounty if convicted," responded Musk, the Twitter CEO.

The user suggested to Musk that only the muting, blocking, and reporting activity of verified accounts should count towards a "reputation score."

The release of Twitter's open-source algorithm revealed some interesting quirks.

Blogger Jane Wong pointed out that Twitter's algorithm specifically labels if Musk wrote a tweet. 

The company also appears to label major figures including Jack Dorsey, Katy Perry, Stephen Curry, and Barack Obama as "testing accounts," per Wong.  

Musk is leaning further into plans to increase the amplification of tweets from verified accounts, in a bid to boost subscriptions to Twitter Blue and revenues. He plans to allow only the tweets of verified accounts and those users follow on the For You feed.

"Legacy verified accounts," those verified by Twitter before Musk's takeover for free largely on the basis of noteworthiness, will begin to lose their verification marks this weekend, according to Twitter.

Some celebrities have voiced their opposition to paying for checkmarks, along with news outlets including The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times – and Insider. 


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