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Twitter has sparked a backlash from users after Elon Musk said the social media platform was putting temporary limits on the number of posts they can view.
Musk, the billionaire entrepreneur who bought the company for $44bn in December, wrote on Twitter on Saturday that users with verified accounts — who pay $8 a month for a premium subscription service — could read 6,000 posts a day. Those with unverified accounts and new unverified accounts could read 600 and 300 tweets a day respectively, he said.
He added that the decision was taken to “address extreme levels of data scraping [and] system manipulation” on the platform.
Following intense criticism from users he later said these “rate limits” would be adjusted to 10,000 posts for verified accounts, and 1,000 or 500 for unverified accounts.
The move comes as artificial intelligence-powered chatbots such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard — which scrape, or harvest data from the internet in order to power their models — have exploded in popularity. Twitter and rival Reddit have indicated their intention to prevent the groups from gathering data for free.
“Almost every company doing AI, from start-ups to some of the biggest corporations on Earth, was scraping vast amounts of data,” Musk wrote on Friday.
“It is rather galling to have to bring large numbers of servers online on an emergency basis just to facilitate some AI start-up’s outrageous valuation,” he added.
Musk has recently sought to charge third parties more broadly for accessing Twitter’s data, in a bid to boost its revenues after warning several months ago that the company could face bankruptcy if its finances did not improve. Earlier in the week, the company announced that tweets could no longer be viewed without a user being logged into an account, a move that could force more individuals to sign up to the platform.
The changes prompted a swift reaction from users, with many tweeting that they had received an error message reading “rate limit exceeded” and were blocked from seeing further posts. The phrase trended on Twitter on Saturday morning, while thousands of users also reported issues with the platform.
Some former Twitter executives were also critical of the decision. Esther Crawford, who was the director of product management of until she was fired by Musk in February, tweeted on Sunday: “Hubris + no pushback – customer empathy – data = a great way to light billions on fire.”