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Confusion at Twitter Continues over Elon Musk’s Tweet Limits

Confusion at Twitter Continues over Elon Musk's Tweet Limits

Twitter users are still grappling with confusion as owner Elon Musk implemented limits on the number of posts they can read in a day. The billionaire introduced this “temporary measure” in response to excessive levels of data scraping on the platform. However, there have been inconsistencies in the implementation of these limits, leading to further confusion among users.

Initially, Mr. Musk set a cap on the number of tweets for unverified users and those without a subscription, limiting them to 600 tweets. However, over the weekend, he quickly raised the limit to 1,000 tweets. While many users claimed they no longer saw any limits on Sunday, some reported receiving a “rate limit exceeded” notification on Monday.

Mr. Musk, who assumed control of Twitter in October 2022, had previously expressed dissatisfaction with artificial intelligence (AI) companies using the platform’s data to train their language models. The recent changes made to the platform were aimed at addressing this concern, but it remains uncertain whether the limits will be a permanent feature.

Possible AI-related issues prompted Mr. Musk to impose these measures. In a tweet on Saturday morning, he responded to a user who raised concerns about site features, stating that Twitter had implemented the limits due to “EXTREME levels of data scraping.” Data scraping involves extracting large amounts of information from websites to make it accessible in different formats.

Mr. Musk expressed frustration at AI startups using Twitter’s data without adequate compensation, stating, “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 about the extensive use of platform data by AI models led Reddit to require companies to pay for accessing its data.

Dr. Rumman Chowdhury, a data scientist and former Twitter employee, speculated that financial issues could be behind the changes. She suggested that the limits might be a result of unpaid bills and an attempt to reduce costs. Court filings revealed that an Australian project management firm had filed a lawsuit against Twitter, seeking cumulative payments of about A$1m (£534,000) for work done in four countries. Other legal cases involving non-payment of bills have also been filed against Twitter.

Since Mr. Musk acquired Twitter, he has focused on cost reduction, including layoffs and the introduction of a subscription service that offers a monthly fee in exchange for the coveted “verified” badge. However, limiting posts on a platform that thrives on engagement appears to be counterproductive. Dr. Chowdhury described it as a “very extreme and unprecedented tactic” that is already proving unsuccessful.

Twitter has experienced the negative consequences of Mr. Musk’s content moderation approach, with advertisers fleeing the platform, thereby affecting its revenue. In April, Mr. Musk claimed that the company was now “roughly breaking even” and that most advertisers were returning.

The tweet limits have had a tangible impact on users on the ground. Journalists, who heavily rely on Twitter for real-time reporting and verifying stories, have been hindered by these restrictions. Bel Trew, chief international correspondent for The Independent, expressed her frustration on Twitter, stating that the limits on tweet consumption left her feeling completely lost while reporting on Sunday. In another instance, a reporter in Baltimore was unable to view tweets from the local police department’s Twitter account following a shooting incident, which resulted in two fatalities and 28 injuries.

The ongoing confusion surrounding tweet limits at Twitter underscores the challenges the platform faces in finding a balance between data security concerns, user experience, and financial sustainability. As users await further updates from Mr. Musk, it remains to be seen how Twitter will navigate these complex issues in the future.

Those receiving “rate limit exceeded” notifications found these applied across all accounts – including to accounts which tweet real-time information about emergencies, weather hazards and natural disasters.

The BBC reached out to Twitter for clarification and received an automated message of a poo emoji.

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