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Twitter shares some of its source code with public

Twitter has made source code – including the recommendations algorithm which controls the tweets users see on their timeline – available online to the public.

April 2, 2023
By Sheila Dang
2 April 2023

Twitter has 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 politicians who are increasingly scrutinising social media platforms over how algorithms select the content users see.

Musk tweeted on Friday third parties should be able to analyse 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 would 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 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 US 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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