Zelensky aide accuses Musk of hiding ‘war’ from Twitter trends
Mikhail Podoliak, a senior adviser to Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, has accused Twitter of hiding trends related to the ongoing conflict in the country. The official took to the social media platform on Tuesday, blasting the platform’s CEO, billionaire Elon Musk, directly.
“‘War in Ukraine’ disappearance from Twitter trends. Radical curtailment of tweets mentioning ru-aggression coverage. Users aren’t allowed to register or log into accounts with Ukrainian phone number,” Podoliak wrote.
According to Twitter, its trends are “determined by an algorithm and, by default, are tailored for you based on who you follow, your interests, and your location.” The algorithm “identifies topics that are popular now, rather than topics that have been popular for a while or on a daily basis.”
The presidential aide was apparently referring to Ukrainian media reports that users with Ukrainian phone numbers were no longer able to log in or register on the platform. While the social media giant has not produced any statements on the issue yet, Musk cryptically warned on Saturday that Twitter “bots” were “in for a surprise tomorrow.”
Podoliak was also critical of the recent release of ‘Twitter files’, which disclosed censorship practices on the platform amid the 2020 US presidential campaign. The official apparently hinted that Twitter’s new leadership was now censoring coverage of the Ukraine crisis.
“Elon Musk, I wonder if we will ever see ‘Twitter Files’ about Fall/Winter 2022?” Podoliak wrote.
In recent weeks, Musk has repeatedly engaged in a bitter back-and-forth with the pro-Ukrainian echo-chamber on the platform, including the country’s top officials. The spat began with a peace plan, floated by the billionaire, who suggested Ukraine should commit to neutrality and relinquish its claim to Crimea, while Russia “redo” referendums in the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, as well as in Kherson and Zaporozhye Regions “under UN supervision.”
The remarks angered Kiev officials, who raided Musk’s feed in order to vent. The poll on the peace plan itself was subjected to what the billionaire called the “biggest bot attack I’ve ever seen.”
The spat has been aggravated by Musk, who threatened to stop payrolling Starlink’s services, which are actively used by the Ukrainian military. In early November, Twitter also began labeling tweets from Ukrainian state-run media – in the same way it does with a number of Russian government-owned outlets – causing a new meltdown among Kiev’s backers.