In a recent development, Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, has implemented temporary limitations on Twitter usage, citing concerns related to data scraping by AI companies. These restrictions come at a time when the popular social media platform is grappling with infrastructure issues and striving to monetize its services effectively.
Effective immediately, unverified accounts will face restrictions on the number of posts they can view per day, with a maximum limit set at 600 posts. Furthermore, newly created unverified accounts will be further limited to a maximum of 300 posts per day. Verified accounts, which include users with a Twitter Blue subscription or those granted verification through an organization, will still have access to a higher limit of 6,000 posts per day. However, Musk has indicated that these limits will soon be raised to 8,000 tweets for verified users, 800 for unverified accounts, and 400 for new unverified accounts.
These measures were implemented shortly after Twitter blocked access for non-logged-in users. Musk defended this decision by highlighting the aggressive scraping of Twitter data by several hundred organizations, which adversely affected the user experience. However, these limitations are only the latest in a series of attempts by Musk to monetize the platform.
Earlier this year, Twitter introduced a three-tier API change, whereby it began charging for the use of its API services. This move followed the launch of the Twitter Blue pay-for-verification scheme, which allowed users to acquire verification in exchange for a monthly fee of $8. Additionally, Musk appointed Linda Yaccarino, a former executive from NBC Universal, as the new CEO of Twitter, with the aim of restoring relationships with advertisers who had significantly reduced their spending on the platform.
As a privately-held company, Twitter’s financial situation remains less transparent than before Musk’s acquisition. However, the appointment of Yaccarino reflects the significance of advertising revenue to the platform. It is worth noting that limiting access to the site directly contradicts the platform’s objective of creating opportunities for advertisers to reach their target audience. Musk’s singular perspective on Twitter’s future may be overshadowing this potential impact on revenue generation.
While Musk attributes the limitations to data-scraping AI companies, he has not addressed the consequences of his decision to lay off over half of Twitter’s staff since taking over the company. This included personnel critical to maintaining the platform’s infrastructure. The abrupt nature of these layoffs even necessitated the rehiring of some engineers who were previously let go. Concerns have been raised repeatedly, warning that such drastic layoffs would inevitably impact the stability of the platform.
In March, an outage on the platform was attributed to a change made by a single engineer. Reports indicated that Twitter’s Google Cloud bill remained unpaid for several months until recently, reflecting a cost-cutting initiative referred to as the “Deep Cuts Plan.” This plan, which aimed to reduce infrastructure spending by millions of dollars per day, appears to have contributed to ongoing challenges faced by the platform.
A Twitter engineer, speaking anonymously to MIT Technology Review, expressed concerns about the reduced workforce, predicting an increase in the frequency, severity, and duration of technological issues. While initially presenting as minor inconveniences, the accumulation of unresolved back-end problems would eventually lead users to abandon the platform. Astonishingly, the article noted that it has been seven months since these concerns were voiced, and significant public-facing problems have indeed begun to emerge.