Why is Twitter Limiting How Many Tweets You Can See?
On Saturday, Twitter made a surprising move by restricting the number of tweets its users could read. Elon Musk, the prominent entrepreneur, tweeted that unverified users could only read 1,000 tweets per day, while verified users were limited to 10,000 tweets.
The implementation of these limits caused a stir among Twitter users, with many sharing screenshots of messages notifying them that they had exceeded their daily allowance of tweets. This decision to restrict user activity goes against the norm for social media platforms and has left advertising executives puzzled.
To understand the reasoning behind this move, it’s essential to examine how Twitter generates revenue. Like other major platforms such as Meta (formerly Facebook) and Google, Twitter relies heavily on advertising. When users spend more time on the platform, they are exposed to more ads, resulting in increased revenue. It’s a simple equation that drives their business.
However, Elon Musk has consistently expressed his aversion to advertising. His electric vehicle company, Tesla, famously does not engage in traditional advertising. In a 2019 tweet, Musk stated, “I hate advertising.” Despite his dislike for ads, he acquired a company, Twitter, that heavily depends on advertising for its survival.
Therefore, Musk is determined to explore alternative revenue streams for Twitter. This decision is not merely driven by business considerations; it is also rooted in his belief that advertisers wield excessive power over social media platforms’ moderation policies. Advertisers have the ability to withdraw their financial support if their ads are placed next to objectionable content, such as racist or extremist material. Consequently, Twitter’s main revenue source influences the extent of “free speech” allowed on the platform.
In April, Musk mentioned that most advertisers had resumed their ad campaigns on Twitter after initially pausing them following his takeover. However, Musk has a larger plan to make Twitter a profitable company. He wants to monetize the vast amount of data that Twitter possesses.
Twitter, along with platforms like Reddit, holds an immense repository of human conversations, amounting to hundreds of billions of interactions. This treasure trove of data is highly valuable to artificial intelligence (AI) companies. Large language models (LLMs) can learn from these interactions and develop more human-like responses to questions.
However, platforms like Twitter and Reddit seek compensation for the use of their data by AI companies. In April, Reddit’s CEO, Steve Huffman, expressed dissatisfaction with how AI companies were leveraging their platform’s data. Huffman emphasized the value of the Reddit corpus of data and questioned the practice of providing it to some of the world’s largest companies without charge.
Around the same time, Musk accused Microsoft of “ripping off the Twitter database, demonetizing it (removing ads), and then selling our data to others.” These incidents highlight Musk’s frustration with the current state of affairs.
By imposing usage restrictions, Musk aims to prevent Twitter’s data from being harvested by LLMs. He intends to engage in negotiations with AI companies and secure compensation for the content they extract.
Another factor that may be driving these restrictions is Musk’s ongoing efforts to reduce Twitter’s reliance on advertising revenue. He has been actively promoting Twitter Blue, a subscription service, as a way to monetize the platform. Twitter Blue offers benefits such as verification badges and additional features to paying subscribers. However, Musk’s hopes for widespread adoption of Twitter Blue have not materialized as expected. Consequently, he may be exploring other means to incentivize users to subscribe, such as requiring a monthly fee for unlimited access to tweets.
Regardless of Musk’s intentions, one thing is clear: limiting tweets is not favorable for advertisers. The imposed limits create challenges for users and advertisers who are already navigating the turbulence within Twitter. According to Mike Proulx, a research director at Forrester, these restrictions are “remarkably bad” for both users and advertisers, adding to the existing chaos on the platform.
Moreover, the emergence of Meta (formerly Facebook) adds another layer to this complex situation. Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta, reportedly plans to launch a Twitter clone called Threads in the coming months. It is highly unlikely that Threads will implement restrictions on users’ tweet consumption, as this approach does not align with Meta’s strategies.
Elon Musk, known for his remarkable success in the business world, has legitimate concerns regarding AI companies exploiting Twitter’s data. Nevertheless, the events of this weekend have left many perplexed, further highlighting the enigmatic nature of Musk’s decisions.