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Twitter makes some of its source code public

2023-04-01T10:03:06Z

A keyboard is placed in front of a displayed Twitter logo in this illustration taken February 21, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

Twitter on Friday made public parts of the computer code that decides how the social media site recommends content, allowing users and programmers a peek into its workings and the ability to suggest modifications to the algorithm.

The company said in a blog post it uploaded the code in two repositories on code-sharing platform Github. They include the source code for many parts of Twitter, including the recommendations algorithm which controls the tweets that users see on their timeline.

The move comes at the behest of its billionaire owner Elon Musk, who has said code transparency would lead to higher trust among users and rapid improvements to the product.

It also serves to address common concerns from users and lawmakers, who are increasingly scrutinizing social media platforms over how algorithms select the content that users see.

Musk tweeted on Friday that third parties should be able to analyze the open-sourced code and “determine, with reasonable accuracy, what will probably be shown to users.”

“No doubt, many embarrassing issues will be discovered, but we will fix them fast!” he tweeted.

Musk also said Twitter will update its recommendation algorithm based on user suggestions every 24 to 48 hours.

On Friday, Musk and some Twitter employees held a session on Spaces, Twitter’s audio chat feature, asking users to bring recommendations and questions about how the platform’s code works.

One person questioned why Twitter’s code appeared to classify users as Republicans or Democrats. A Twitter employee responded that it was an old feature that was not important to the platform’s recommendation system, and the company was looking to remove it.

The repositories on Github do not include the code that powers Twitter’s ad recommendations, the company said.

It also said it excluded code that would compromise user safety or privacy, as well as details that would undermine efforts to prevent child sexual abuse material on the platform.

The news also comes after parts of Twitter’s source code were leaked on Github, which took down the code last week at Twitter’s request.

Twitter asked the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to order Github to produce “all identifying information” associated with the Github account that had posted the leaked code, according to a legal filing.

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