Elon Musk now has the most followers on Twitter

Billionaire chief executive overtakes Barack Obama, with more than 133 million followers

Mr Musk, the world's second-wealthiest person, acquired Twitter in October last year. AFP
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Twitter chief executive Elon Musk has become the most followed person on the social media platform.

Mr Musk, who bought the California-based company for $44 billion last October, had 133,072,571 followers at 11.22am UAE time, overtaking former US president Barack Obama, who had 133,043,280, according to their Twitter profiles.

The world's second-wealthiest person, who is also the chief executive of Tesla, is gaining an average of 100,000 users per day, according to Sawyer Merritt, an investor in the electric car company.

Mr Musk's move into the top spot came slightly later than some predicted. In November, analytics website Social Blade told the BBC that he would overtake Mr Obama on January 17.

At the time, Mr Musk was gaining roughly 270,000 followers a day, Social Blade said.

Canadian singer Justin Bieber is in third place with 113.31 million followers, followed by fellow artists Katy Perry and Rihanna, and footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, who all have more than 100 million followers.

Rounding out the top 10 are singer Taylor Swift, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former US president Donald Trump and singer Lady Gaga.

Mr Musk, a prolific user of Twitter, has drawn polarising opinions for his tweets, which have at times also caused him legal trouble.

Probably the most infamous — and costliest — instance was in 2018, when he tweeted that he was taking Tesla private at $420 a share, with “funding secured”.

The deal never materialised and it resulted in Mr Musk and Tesla settling with the US Securities and Exchange Commission for $40 million.

Last month, Mr Musk was also accused of manipulating Twitter's algorithm to boost the reach of his own tweets.

He instructed a team of his engineers to tweak the algorithm in order for his tweets to gain traction, resulting in a flood of his messages appearing on users' feeds, Platformer.news reported.

Twitter's monthly active user numbers are lower than other social platforms — it had about 556 million in February, ranking at 14th place, according to the latest data from Statista.

However, it has become a key platform for public discourse and a flashpoint for discussions that at times have also led to dissemination of disinformation and harmful content.

Mr Musk, who championed free speech during his campaign to acquire Twitter last year, sparked concerns that the network might spiral out of control with fake news.

However, the company tried to address these concerns by policing its own content and imposing sanctions on offending accounts, including revamping Twitter's blue check verification system.

He is also attempting to make the platform more transparent by making Twitter's algorithm open source.

Twitter will make the algorithm for recommending tweets public on March 31, Mr Musk said.

It plans to use artificial intelligence to curb the manipulation of public opinion on the platform.

Mr Musk's time at the helm of Twitter has been tumultuous.

He has fired more than half of the company's employees and shut down units and offices around the world, raising concerns that there may not be enough people to carry out oversight roles in key areas of its operations.

Twitter's revenue and adjusted earnings plunged by 40 per cent on an annual basis in December as several advertisers withdrew after Mr Musk took charge of the company, The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month.

Updated: March 30, 2023, 8:16 AM

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