Home » Confusion at Twitter continues over Elon Musk’s tweet limits

Confusion at Twitter continues over Elon Musk’s tweet limits

by Mahmmod Shar

By Shiona McCallum & Liv McMahon

Confusion at Twitter appears to be continuing after owner Elon Musk introduced limits to the amount of posts users can read in a day.

The billionaire announced the “temporary measure” to address extreme levels of data scraping on the site.

Initial limits were quickly increased by Mr Musk at the weekend.

While many users reported no longer seeing limits on Sunday, some said a “rate limit exceeded” notification had returned on Monday.

Mr Musk – who took over Twitter in October 2022 had said previously that he was not happy about artificial intelligence (AI) firms using Twitter’s data to train their large language models.

Changes to the platform at the weekend saw it impose an initial 600-tweet limit for unverified Twitter users who are not paying for a subscription to the platform, but Mr Musk said this had increased to 1,000 on Saturday evening.

He has not yet provided an update on whether the limits will remain in place.

An AI issue?

Responding to a user flagging issues with site features, Mr Musk said in a tweet on Saturday morning Twitter had imposed the measures as a result of “EXTREME levels of data scraping”.

The process is a key method of gathering content and information from web platforms, and involves extracting data from sites, often at great scale, to make it accessible and readable in local formats, such as in a spreadsheet.

“Almost every company doing AI, from start-ups to some of the biggest corporations on Earth, was scraping vast amounts of data,” Mr Musk added in his tweet.

“It is rather galling to have to bring large numbers of servers online on an emergency basis just to facilitate some AI startup’s outrageous valuation.”

Similar concerns over the mass use of platform data to train AI models in part sparked Reddit’s decision to make companies pay to access its data.

Data scientist and ex-Twitter employee, Dr Rumman Chowdhury, told the BBC it was unclear if AI organisations had been scraping data from Twitter, but suggested financial issues could be behind the changes.

“Frankly, I think I’m in a majority of people who believe that it’s due to his lack of payment of his bills… and he’s attempting to reduce his costs,” she said.

An Australian project management firm has filed a lawsuit against Twitter in a US court seeking cumulative payments of about A$1m (£534,000) over alleged non-payment of bills for work done in four countries, court filings show.

In May, a former public relations firm filed a suit in a New York court saying Twitter had not paid its bills, while early this year US-based advisory firm Innisfree M&A Inc sued it, seeking about $1.9m (£1.4m) for what it said were unpaid bills after it advised Twitter on its acquisition by Mr Musk.

Since Mr Musk bought Twitter he has focused on reducing costs by laying off half the workforce and introducing the subscription service, which offers the sought-after “verified” badge for a monthly fee.

For a platform that requires engagement, limiting posts seems to go in the opposite direction. It is a “very extreme and unprecedented tactic” which is “already failing”, said Dr Chowdhury.

Twitter saw advertisers flee amid worries about Mr Musk’s approach to content moderation rules, affecting its revenue.

When Mr Musk spoke to the BBC in April, he said the company was now “roughly breaking even”, claiming most of its advertisers were returning.

Impact on the ground

The limit on tweets saw some journalists, who use Twitter to find information for live reporting and verification of stories, confronted with the curbs.

Bel Trew, chief international correspondent for The Independent, tweeted that limits to how many tweets she could read on the platform had left her at a “complete loss” while reporting on Sunday.

And a reporter in the US city of Baltimore was left unable to view tweets from the local police department’s Twitter account in the wake of a shooting that left two people killed and a further 28 injured.

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