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Schrödinger’s Twitter

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Ever got a funny feeling while browsing Twitter? Feed not working and some older notifications disappearing? While your personal profile history is deconstructed by the social media network, Elon Musk blames “extreme levels of [AI] data scraping & system manipulation”. While the company’s owner claims recent changes to the Twitter policy to be protective measures, some former employees express an opinion that finances are more likely to be the cause. A cat among pigeons was put up when @TwitterDaily informed their users that Twitter would no longer allow navigation across the platform without logging in. “All URLs redirect to the signup page,” the tweet said.

 

Apart from that some registered users started having issues with their newsfeed, notifications and likes history where posts would disappear and appear again the next day. In his official statement, Elon Musk said that the new restrictions prevent companies from taking data from Twitter that could be used for AI training purposes. “This is believed to be a measure to make it harder for scrapers to take Twitter’s data like ChatGPT’s web browsing plugin has been doing”, said Musk.

Now, while unregistered users are blocked, those having Twitter profiles are not free to use the platform as much as they want. The current limits define how many tweets one can view on a daily basis, e.g. 10,000 for verified and 500 for unverified users. Those exceeding these numbers would see a notification reading either “Something went wrong. Try reloading,” or “Sorry, you are rate limited. Please wait a few moments then try again”. Before the temporary measures were introduced, Twitter had been the only social media allowing any Internet user to browse the platform without logging in.

While omnipresent AI indeed can be an issue, some former Twitter employees believe that’s not something to do with the new policy. According to some of them, the company’s Google Cloud debts can be related to the recently imposed limits. Earlier, Twitter signed a multi-year contract with Google to host services on its servers including fighting spam and removing child sexual abuse material. In June this year, however, Platformer reported that Elon Musk had refused to pay Google Cloud bills shortly before the contract’s renewal date. Responding to the issue in a thread on Bluesky social, a rival app, Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former Head of Trust & Safety, wrote: “Scraping was the open secret of Twitter data access. We knew about it. It was fine.”

“There’s some legitimacy to Twitter and Reddit being upset with AI companies for slurping up social data gratis in order to train commercially lucrative models,” Roth continued. “But they should never forget that it’s not *their* data — it’s ours. A solution to parasitic AI needs to be user-centric, not profit-centric.”

In November 2022, the social media network introduced Twitter Blue, a new subscription that allowed users to buy a verified status. It is yet unlikely to see users rushing to pay so they can have more freedom while browsing the platform.

The backlash amid the new policy was followed by the announcement that Twitter is now facing a $90 million legal fee – an unpaid bill for the services of elite law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. This also coincides with the company’s ongoing rivalry with Facebook who managed to hire some of Twitter’s previous employees after they had been laid off by Musk. Threads, Zuckerberg’s version of Twitter, was launched this week. Some accounts, suspended by Musk and co, eventually resurfaced on the new platform. Thus, Threads users can follow Jack Sweeney, the creator of an account tracking Elon Musk’s private jet in real-time.

Although the true reason behind the newly imposed Twitter limits is still not clear, this decision definitely doesn’t make some users feel they want to linger on. Perhaps, Elon Musk is too tired of Twitter, trying to smoke its digital inhabitants out and join forces with Zuckerberg.

Author

  • Irina Shtreis

    Irina Shtreis is a music writer, researcher and musician. Her byline has appeared in British publications such as MOJO magazine, The Quietus and Louder Than War. Irina has been a news editor of the latter since 2020.

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