(The Herald Post) – Twitter, under the direction of its billionaire owner Elon Musk, has taken an unprecedented step towards algorithm transparency by releasing parts of the computer code that governs its content recommendation system. The company plans to make the entirety of the code available in the coming weeks, allowing users and programmers to scrutinize its inner workings and suggest modifications.
On Saturday, Musk announced via a tweet that “in the coming weeks, we will open source literally everything that contributes to showing a tweet.” The company has already uploaded some sections of the code, including the recommendations algorithm, to two repositories on Github, the popular code-sharing platform.
Musk’s initiative aims to foster higher trust among users and promote rapid product improvements through code transparency. The move also addresses mounting concerns from users and lawmakers regarding the selection processes that determine the content users see on social media platforms.
By enabling third parties to analyze the open-sourced code, Musk expects them to “determine, with reasonable accuracy, what will probably be shown to users.” He acknowledges that “many embarrassing issues” might surface, but promises to address them swiftly. In addition, Twitter will update its recommendation algorithm based on user suggestions every 24 to 48 hours.
On Friday, Musk and several Twitter employees hosted a Spaces session—an audio chat feature on the platform—to field recommendations and questions about the platform’s code. One user inquired about the code’s apparent classification of users as Republicans or Democrats. A Twitter representative explained that this was an obsolete feature not essential to the recommendation system and would be removed.
While the repositories on Github provide considerable insight into Twitter’s inner workings, they do not include the code powering the platform’s ad recommendations. Moreover, the company has excluded any code that would compromise user safety or privacy, as well as any details that might undermine efforts to prevent the spread of child sexual abuse material on the platform.
The decision to open-source Twitter’s code follows a recent incident in which portions of the platform’s source code were leaked on Github. After requesting the removal of the leaked code, Twitter sought a court order from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to obtain identifying information related to the Github account responsible for the leak.