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Elon Musk says Twitter will sue a ‘disgruntled employee’ who planted a ‘bogus article’ about his tweets being boosted

Fortune 2/17/2023 Steve Mollman
© Muhammed Selim Korkutata—Anadolu Agency

Twitter CEO Elon Musk said he’s going after a “disgruntled employee” he claims was the source of a “bogus” article about him.

On Tuesday, Platformer, a newsletter that covers Twitter closely, published a report entitled, “Yes, Elon Musk created a special system for showing you all his tweets first.” 

According to the article, Musk ordered changes to the Twitter algorithm after a tweet of his during the Super Bowl got less engagement than President Joe Biden’s. Musk quickly assembled dozens of Twitter employees following the game on Sunday night to fix the issue. 

By Monday, the Platformer report states, Twitter’s algorithm “artificially boosted Musk’s tweets by a factor of 1,000—a constant score that ensured his tweets rank higher than anyone else’s in the feed.”

On Monday, many Twitter users reported seeing unusually high number of Musk’s tweets in their timelines.

Musk tweeted early on Friday, “The ‘source’ of the bogus Platformer article is a disgruntled employee who had been on paid time off for months, had already accepted a job at Google and felt the need to poison the well on the way out. Twitter will be taking legal action against him.”

Musk did not name the employee or reveal why he is suspected of being the source, and therefore it could not be confirmed whether Musk’s allegations are accurate.

The authors of the article, Zoë Schiffer and Casey Newton, each replied to Musk’s tweet by calling it “completely false,” adding, “We stand by our reporting.” 

They also discussed the article on the New York Times Hard Fork podcast Friday, where Schiffer said, “Basically, since December, Elon’s primary concern with the company isn’t the fact that it’s losing billions of dollars and it’s still not yet profitable, it’s really that his popularity seems to be declining.” 

Twitter did not immediately respond to Fortune’s request for comment.

In December, Schiffer tweeted that Musk had threatened to sue Twitter employees who leak confidential information to the press. She also included a link to The Tech Worker Handbook, adding, “If you’re a tech worker considering sharing information with the media, you have rights.”

A Platformer report earlier this month stated that Musk told an engineer “You’re fired” after being told interest in his tweets seemed to be declining.

On Friday, Musk tweeted, “Several major media sources incorrectly reported that my Tweets were boosted above normal levels earlier this week. A review of my Tweet likes & views over the past 6 months, especially as a ratio of followers, shows this to be false. We did have a bug that briefly caused replies to have the same prominence as primary Tweets, but that has now been fixed.”

He noted that he’s never come close to repeating the engagement he achieved with an April 2020 tweet that said: “Next I’m buying Coca-Cola to put the cocaine back in,” despite having about 40 million fewer followers then than now (he currently has about 129 million). 

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